From the moment our baby is born it’s drilled into us to put our babies to sleep on their backs.
In the daytime though, it’s also important to put them on their tummies so they can get a whole new view of the world.
They need this tummy time to practice key skills that are important for crawling. Awake time on their front can help strengthen their head, neck and back muscles.
So when do you start tummy time? And why do you need to do it at all?
And – what on earth do you do if your baby hates tummy time and cries to be picked up after only a few seconds?
Below you can find 16 fun tummy time ideas and activities by age to make it a fun experience for you and baby. There are even some you can start from birth.
Why is tummy time so important?
It strengthens those muscles
Tummy time gives your baby an important opportunity to develop their neck, core, arm and leg muscles.
Each time they are placed on their tummies they will strengthen these key muscles. Doing so, will practise all the crucial skills they will later need to roll and crawl.
It gives them a whole new perspective
It also gives your baby a different view of the world. They’re used to seeing us upside down or from different angles as they lie on their backs. But now everything’s the right way up!
As they reach up their heads and spot toys or objects in front of them they can also practice and develop hand eye coordination.
They get to explore with sensory play
Tummy time can also give baby an amazing sensory experience. It might seem like a small change of position but lying on their tummies gives babies all sorts of tactile information about where their hands, legs and tummies are placed.
It helps little brains input how and why their bodies are moving, as they explore their new world.
What age should I start tummy time?
Tummy time can begin as soon as your baby comes home from hospital. You can start gently by lying your baby on their tummy onto your chest, arms or legs.
You can then gradually move onto placing them on a soft blanket on the floor. If you place your baby on the sofa and sit on the floor you will be at their eye level and can talk and sing to them while they lie.
If your baby is upset then pick them up and soothe them. You want to keep it a positive experience right from the start.
A little note about safety: always supervise baby during tummy time and keep it short and sweet at first.
How much tummy time does my baby need?
Start by giving your baby tummy time for just a couple of minutes, two or three times every day. You can then build up slowly.
As a guide, experts advise that, in the first month or two after birth, that you build it up to 10 minutes of total tummy time a day. This 10 minutes is not in one go but is spread over a few sessions throughout the day.
By about 4 months experts recommend that your baby gets as much as 90 minutes a day of tummy time.
That sounds like an awful lot, but remember it’s not 90 minutes in one go. It’s spread out over a a number of shorter sessions throughout the day.
Regardless, try not to think of tummy time as an extra chore or focus on the exact timings.
Take advantage of little moments – like after a nappy change or after a nap – to pop your baby on their tummy and talk to or play with them as you do.
Make sure your baby isn’t hungry or tired when you set him tummy-down.
Also don’t place your baby down on his tummy just after a feed.
What to do when your baby hates tummy time
Some babies will be perfectly happy – and even excited – by tummy time. But others will really dislike it.
Being in this new position can feel strange for them. And it’s hard work too. Especially at the beginning, when they’re building up their neck and muscle strength.
Just a small amount of tummy time can be an exhausting workout for little ones.
If your baby doesn’t seem to like it when you place them on their tummy, then keep tummy time short.
Even if they can only handle a minute of tummy time in the beginning then that’s fine. Scoop them up and give them plenty of kisses and cuddles. Then try again later.
16 Fun Tummy Time Ideas by Age
It can help to make tummy time a fun experience for them too. Pick one of these great tummy time ideas to try and turn tummy time into playtime for baby.
We’ve split them into age categories so that you can start baby off with gentler activities and move onto more fun and interactive ones.
The age categories are a rough guide for baby and are not intended as a strict age limit. Feel free to mix and match depending on what your baby likes.
Starting Tummy Time: Newborn – 6 weeks old
Mummy tummy time
Start gently. Instead of placing your baby on the floor place them on your chest – tummy to tummy.
When they lift their head, they can see your face and will be happier still when you talk, sing or make faces at them.
Cradle your baby, lying their tummy across your arms and go for a walk about your house or your local area.
Talk to your baby about all the things you see along the way.
Black and white
Babies love looking at black and white patterns. In the first few weeks after birth, their developing eyes can only detect differences between light and dark, or black and white.
Placing black and white pictures, board books or toys in front of your baby during tummy time will excite their senses and stimulate them visually.
Ideally the book or toy should be 8-12 inches from baby’s face, for baby to be able to focus on it.
Bouncing ball babies
If you have a birthing ball or yoga ball, place your baby on top of it on their tummy. Use your hands to steady and hold them and make sure they don’t fall.
You might want to place a blanket on top of the ball to make it cosier.
Keeping a firm hold on your baby, slowly roll her backwards and forwards and from side to side to let her get used to being on her tummy in a gentle but exciting new way.
Gentle Tummy Time Activities: 6 -12 weeks old
Fun with fabrics
Take a soft piece of sheer fabric – like a silky scarf – and gently sweep it over your baby’s face as they lie on their tummy.
They will be distracted and excited by the fabric and it can help keep their attention away from thinking about the new position they are in.
Wrist rattle fun
Pop two wrist rattles on your baby during Tummy Time. You can buy some lovely ones with rattles or even with crinkly fabrics.
Your baby will be entranced by the noises they make as they move their arms.
Track the toy
Shaking a toy in front of your baby’s face during tummy time will hold their attention. Even better if it’s a noisy, or colourful one.
If you move the toy slowly from side to side your baby will track it with their eyes.
As they grow older, they will begin to focus intently on the toy and try to reach out and grasp it.
Give them a comfy prop
Tummy time can be hard work for little babies. Give them a helping hand by rolling up a soft towel or blanket and placing it under their chest and armpits.
This takes the strain off using their core muscles to hold themselves upright. They can focus first on lifting their heads to get a new view of the world.
Work it, baby
Baby gyms provide your baby with instant entertainment during tummy time.
With toys to look at, textures to touch on the mat and a soft and comfy place to lie they make the perfect tummy time place.
First Tummy Time Games: 3-4 months old
You can buy lovely Tummy Time water mats to add new excitement for your baby.
Filled with water and floating plastic shapes your baby can lie on the water mat and watch and try to ‘catch’ the little fish floating by.
You can find a water mat for baby in our recommended products at the bottom of this article.
Pop up giggles
Toys that pop up are great fun to use at Tummy Time. While your baby lies on their tum you can make the toys pop up and they will love watching to see which one will appear next.
We should warn that some babies find toys that pop up too quickly or loudly a bit scary. If that’s the case then choose pop up toys that move more slowly and gently. But other babies love to see the toys appear out of nowhere and it can make them giggle for ages.
As they get older they can have fun making the toys pop up by themselves.
Mirror, mirror on the floor
It’s a truth that babies love looking at faces – and they find their own face fascinating!
Which is why placing a mirror in front of them during tummy time can entertain and distract them.
They might even reach out to touch the baby in front of them.
Make a book wall
Prop up board books can be stood up in front of baby for them to explore during tummy time.
These can be black and white or with bright, colourful illustrations. The images and stories can help keep baby focused for longer.
Sensory Fun and Games: 4 months+
Sensory fun on your tum
It’s easy to make your own Tummy Time baby sensory tray.
Place some objects in a tray (or on the carpet) in front of your baby that are exciting for them to touch and feel.
You could use household items like sponges, net shower pouffes, wooden spoons and plastic teething necklaces.
Babies find everyday objects captivating and love to explore them.
Rubber duckie fun
This is a fun game for babies who are a few months old and can hold themselves up during tummy time.
Place a shallow tray full of water in front of your baby (an oven tray works well) and pop in some rubber ducks.
Your baby will have great fun splashing their hands in the water and watching the ducks bob along.
Add some giggles to tummy time by playing Peekaboo while your baby is lying on her blanket or mat.
It’s always lovely to watch your baby’s eyes light up as your face (or a toy) appears from behind your hands.
So however you choose to get started with tummy time, we hope it’s a fun time for your both!
Some of our Favourite Tummy Time Toys:
Lovevery also have Play Kits which arrive every 2-3 months and have a selection of Montessori-based toys for baby.
If you want to find out more you can see our full review here where we try out two subscription boxes: Lovevery vs. Kiwico.
Tummy Time Toys
If you’re looking for some ideas for tummy time toys and props, we’ve put together a list of our favourites below:
Find on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2M7S8fg
These are very popular little floor mirrors for tummy time. Babies are fascinated by looking at their faces in the mirror so these could keep them amused for a while!
Find on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MzINf7
We love Tiny Love toys for babies. They have so many well thought out toys with hidden surprises when you get them and baby starts exploring.
Find on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2IHx512
Crinkly books are not just fun to look at for baby but also fun to grasp and grab and hear the sounds.
This one has a little mirror in it too on one of the pages.
Manhattan toy wrist and ankle baby rattle set
Find on Amazon: https://amzn.to/31fmtgk
Make noises as they shake their arms and feet about. Babies can be fascinated to hear the sound they make when they move.
Find on Amazon: https://amzn.to/315VsMc
Nursing pillows that double up as a great support pillow for baby’s first tummy time explorations.
Find on Amazon: https://amzn.to/319LQ2I
Babies can hit the mat with their hands and watch the underwater creatures move about. As they get older they’ll get better at tracking them with their eyes as they move. A great activity for tummy time.
Find on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Mt2Ewk
You can go all out with this Deluxe baby gym which can be used for all stages from lying on their back, to tummy time, to sitting up.
Baby’s legs kick the notes on the piano at the back.
They can explore the hanging creatures and toys up the sides. As they get older the piano detaches and baby can hold it while sitting and play it with their hands.
Do you have more questions about tummy time?
Are you struggling with getting started with tummy time?
Or what to do if baby hates tummy time?
If so get in touch with other mamas of babies in our online parenting chat room:
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