What is Tummy Time and How to Do It?

What is Tummy Time?

September 13, 2019

What is Tummy Time?

What is Tummy Time?

Tummy time is one of the simplest things you can do with your little one—but did you know it’s one of the most important too? Tummy time is like a mini workout for your mini new addition. It builds your baby’s muscles and sets the stage for all sorts of important milestones like sitting, rolling over and even crawling. We’re breaking it all down for you: everything you need to know about tummy time, when and how to start, and our most-loved, parent-tested products for making it a little more fun for you and your baby.

What is Tummy Time?

Tummy time is pretty much what it sounds like: a time during the day that your little one spends on their tummy while they’re awake.

Tummy time became popular right around the time the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) launched the Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play campaign. This initiative recommends that parents and caregivers place healthy infants on their backs for sleep to reduce instances of SIDS, and on their tummies while they’re awake for play to prevent flat head spots and help with muscle development. (You can learn more about the AAP’s guidelines around safe sleep practices here.)

Why Do Babies Need Tummy Time?

Doing tummy time with your little one is more than just cute—it comes with a ton of benefits.

  • Muscle development and improved motor skills. Tummy time helps babies strengthen the muscles in their necks, backs, trunks and shoulders. Your little one needs strong muscles to hit milestones like sitting, crawling and walking.
  • Preventing a flat spot. While back is best for sleep, prolonged time on their backs can cause a flat spot on the head (called plagiocephaly) for some babies. Getting in a few sessions of tummy time each day can help prevent this.

When Do You Start Tummy Time?

A little one with no health concerns is never too young for tummy time. You can start from day one for short amounts of time each day and increase as baby gets older, stronger and more alert.

How Much Tummy Time Do Babies Need?

The AAP recommends that you do tummy time with your baby 2-3 times each day. A newborn tummy time session only needs to last a few minutes each time. As your little one grows, you’ll want to work up to about an hour of combined tummy time sessions each day by around 3 months of age.

How Do You Do Tummy Time?

Tummy time is the perfect excuse to spend some uninterrupted time interacting and having fun with your little one. Always do tummy time on a low, solid surface (preferably the floor) to keep your baby safe, and make sure other kiddos and pets are out of the way. If baby starts to get sleepy—which can happen pretty easily with a newborn—move them to a safe sleep space and place them on their back for a snooze.

Tummy time with little ones is all about keeping them interested in engaged. If you have the space and you’re looking for an all-in-one tummy + playtime solution, a baby gym is the way to go—and The Play Gym by Lovevery and the Tiny Love by Gymini are two of our all-time favorites. Each is packed with features designed to captivate babies—a mirror that reflects your little one’s face, hanging toys they’ll want to grab, black and white contrast images to stimulate their vision, and more—and encourage muscle development.

Looking for a more minimalist solution to tummy time? You’ll want to start with a soft place for baby rest so they’re comfy and supported. Skip Hop’s Doubleplay mat gets the job done for both parents and babies, featuring a padded, waterproof and wipe-clean surface and two modern designs that won’t become the eyesore of your family room.

For a machine washable solution, you’ll want to snag Petit Pehr’s whimsical Playmat.

Now it’s time to get baby’s attention. There are a few ways to do that, but you can start with a basic grabbing toy like Manhattan Toy’s Skwish. The unusual look of this modern rattle encourages little ones to reach for it, and its unique design makes it easy for even the littles of hands to hold.

Ready to take it up a notch? Adding sounds and music to tummy time is another way to keep your little one engaged. The Rainbow Rattle from Hape is a classic wooden choice that will catch baby’s eye with its bright primary colors.

If you don’t mind a bit more noise, we also love Skip Hop’s Rainstick Rattle that mimics the sound of a rain shower, and the Octotunes from Lamaze, where each tentacle plays a different note.

A few tips for using these toys during tummy time:

  • Reach, reach, reach. Place toys in reach for younger babies and just out of reach for older ones. This will encourage your little one to reach and grab for what they want and aid in muscle development.
  • Try a toy circle. Grab a few toys and put them in different positions around your baby, making a small circle. This helps baby learn to move in all different angles, building strength and agility.

Books also make perfect tummy time props. Look for books or flashcards that utilize bright colors or high-contrast black-and-white images (both visually stimulating for your little one’s developing eyesight) and that can be propped up horizontally at baby’s eye level during tummy time.

Babies love looking at faces—their own and those around them. The Look Book from Sassy is a soft, baby-friendly photo album that holds six photos of loved ones.

Skip Hop’s Vibrant Village Peek & Play Activity Book is another one of our favorites. It’s perfect for spreading out in front of baby during tummy time, then folding up into a playhouse for sensory play when your little one is a bit older.

And if you want to give flashcards a go, Art Cards from Giantsuper are a favorite thanks to their modern, high-contrast animal designs and the magnetic strip that turns each card into a mini easel, just right for propping up during tummy time.

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