We constantly hear how a good workout is vital to our health. The list of benefits is long and impressive: increased energy, heart health, muscle gain, and weight loss. It turns out that babies need to work out too. A good tummy time workout helps build muscle, develop gross motor skills and increase eye coordination to name just a few of the many benefits. But unlike us who only have ourselves to blame for not working out, babies rely on their parents to help them get the exercise that they need.
“Babies are in the car seat all day long or in a swing or bouncer when they are awake,” says Alicia Quintana, a Pediatric Occupational Therapist at Tender Touch Occupational Therapy Services in Arizona. “They are on their backs instead of being allowed to play on the floor and move around and experience tummy time.”
Part of the problem is that parents are busy. According to the Pew Research Center, in 70% of families, both mom and dad work either full-time or part-time. Add to that the daily load of housework, errands, activities and other siblings; parents can lose sight of their littlest one’s development.
Tummy Time Lasts a Lifetime
According to the Pathways Awareness Foundation, each year more than 400,000 U.S. children are at risk for an early motor delay. The actual incidences are one in 40, a 150% increase from 25 years ago. Experts like Quintana say a daily tummy time can lower this risk. “Tummy time teaches babies head control, pushing up on their arms, rolling and crawling. Those are all important skills that are going to work into sitting, standing and then walking.”
If babies don’t get a regular tummy time workout, they may have problems later in life. Quintana has seen that firsthand. “So when I get a lot of referrals for school age children, I ask the parents, did they do a lot of tummy time and often the answer is no. They didn’t develop the muscles and the arches in the hands sufficiently. So they can’t sit at a desk all day long and hold a pencil and write.”
Tummy Time Starter Tips
So when do you start tummy time? The American Academy of Pediatrics says tummy time can begin with babies as young as newborns and can take place throughout the day. “Babies will have periods of time between naps and feedings when they are in a quiet alert or active alert state. This is the best time for tummy time.” says Quintana.
Here are some other helpful ideas from Quintana to help create a successful tummy time session:
- Put colorful toys or a baby mirror on the ground to encourage head and arm movement as baby reaches for toys.
- Encourage siblings to lay on the floor and interact with the baby.
- Look for signs your infant is tired or needs a break. For instance, more jerky movements, mild fussing or looking away from you.
- If baby does not enjoy tummy time, try lying baby on mom or dad’s chest or knees. This counts as tummy time too and is a great bonding opportunity.
- Finally, keep it positive. Doing short bursts of tummy time throughout the day is okay. A few minutes will add up over time.
Creating a Top-Notch Tummy Time Environment
Every baby is different, and not every baby will have an enjoyable tummy time right away, but creating that perfect environment can go a long way. That environment can be as simple as laying a blanket on the floor and placing a tab and texture book in front of your baby. These books encourage exploration and will keep infants captivated while on their tummies which lengthen their workouts without adding stress. You can buy these books on Etsy or you can DIY and make your own. Just gather different materials from around the house to create a little sensory book or even a texture box.
But if you don’t have that kind of time on your hands, there are many other options for busy moms and dads, we’ve picked out some great products to help you out.
Top 5 Baby Products For a Productive Tummy Time
Little Frog Water Play Mat
Named the Best Baby Toy of 2015 by American Baby Magazine, this friendly frog from HABA will keep little ones entertained for a long time. When parents fill the frog’s belly with distilled water, children can touch it and make the fun shapes move around. If tummy time gets messy, like it sometimes does, the quality-stitched polyester fabric is removable and machine washable, making clean up a breeze. Age Range: 6+ months MSRP: $25.00
Gymotion Activity Musical Playland
This award-winning activity gym is the brainchild of Yookidoo. Packed with more than 20 developmental activities, the main feature is a patented motorized Magic Motion Track™ that drives back and forth across the mat, keeping babies attention and promoting eye-tracking skills. This baby gym will last parents a long time, keeping little ones entertained through all three stages of developmental play: Lay & Play, Tummy Time and Sit & Play. Age Range: 0-12 months MSRP: $79.99 Buy it on Amazon.com
Lights N Music Motion Activated Fun Ball By Yookidoo
This battery-operated ball of fun by Yookidoo is a must-have for tummy time. Babies activate the ball by shaking, tapping or rolling the ball. The lights and music encourage baby to crawl… one of the big goals of tummy time. The soft, lightweight material has different textures and is easy to grasp, so it’s perfect for small hands. Age Range: 3+ months MSRP: $14.99 Buy it at BabiesRUs.com
Lamaze® Gardenbug 4-Piece Foot Finder Wrist Rattle Set
Foot and ankle rattles are great toys for newborns who are limited when it comes to playtime capabilities. When baby kicks his or her feet and flails their arms, the rattles make noise, and the bright colors stimulate vision. Baby can also chew or suck the wrist rattle, extending tummy time a bit longer. Age Range: 0+ months MSRP: $15.99 Buy this at BuyBuyBaby.com.
Edushape Mini Orchestra
These colorful mini instruments created by Halilit allow your baby to explore their senses. Each music maker creates its own sound include shakers, bells, and jingles. The easy-to-grip handles promote fine motor skills. Everything is BPA-free, lead-free and Phthalate-free. Age Range: 6+ months MSRP: $24.99 Buy it at Kohls.com