At the end of 4 months, Anika started rolling from her tummy to her back. I never helped her learn the skill because I did’nt want to take away her joy of being able to do it herself. So, instead of ‘pushing’ her to gain a skill earlier, I just gave her lots of ‘time and opportunity’ to be able to do it when she was ready. I sincerely believe these milestones are not a competition or a race. Whenever my inner voice tells me to help her do it, I remind myself to STOP and TRUST her because Einstein spoke his first word at 3 years and that didn’t define his potential. In terms of giving opportunities for physical growth, we all know the answer is tummy time. I get most number of messages on Instagram asking me when to start tummy time and how to encourage it. Since I have not written about the “encouraging” part yet, here we go…..
Let’s start with some facts:
- Tummy time is hard work.
- Most babies dont like it much.
- It is essential to build neck and shoulder muscles for head control and all the future gross motor movements.
- All babies have different level of strength, so its best to ease and motivate the child but never force them to do tummy time. Increase the duration gradually…
- Make tummy time a “routine” from birth, so babies know what to expect and will resist it less. Our routine is as soon as Anika wakes from any day nap, we change nappy and do tummy time. Duration differs but the routine stays the same.
- The more tummy time and floor time a baby gets, the stronger and more physically active they will be. Minimize the time in contraptions.
- Most children need “incentives” to do tummy time. These incentives were different each month depending on her capability and interest. So here is how we encouraged tummy time during Anika’s first 5 months of life….
Birth and First Month- We started tummy time on Day 4 on my tummy! Mumma’s body feels like the safest and the most known place to little one’s and this is the best + easiest place to start. We put Anika on the floor on Day.10 when she seemed OK to lie on her tummy and occasionally try very hard to lift her head. The most important thing was to place her on soft/ thick rug or floor mat.
- Start tummy time on mum or dad’s tummy
2. Mum’s (primary caregiver) presence is comforting during tummy time for at least the first 2 months– I stayed with her throughout and often did tummy time with her, so she could see me and this got me the few extra minutes from her.
3. Tummy time in different places around the house– encourages babies to engage for longer and try their best to lift their heads up since this ‘new world’ is fascinating!
4. Make it a part of your routine from the start- this way babies will know what to expect and resist it less.
Second Month- From Week 5 onward, she particularly enjoyed seeing ‘the baby’ in the mirror. Babies visual sense is limited in the first few weeks of life so high contrast images are perfect for getting their attention + developing their visual sense. We have absolutely loved these black and white flash cards. I printed these on 250 gsm paper and used corner punch to trim the edges.
5. Black and white images/ mats are visually stimulating- Babies can only see high contrast images during the first few weeks of life. Anika has absolutely loved these black and white cards and her brolly sheet, which we use as an extra layer under a carpet or rug during tummy time.
6. Tummy time is always better when babies can interact with people
7. Montessori Mobiles are wonderful tummy time incentives from Week 4 onward
Third Month- Anika became increasingly aware of her surroundings at 3 months. She was earlier very sensitive to many people and especially noise! Introducing her to the “outside world” was done while on tummy 🙂
8. Trees make THE best mobiles- and a great tummy time motivation + introduction to the outside world, once babies are settled in their home environment.
9. Various ‘sensorial’ materials that they can grasp- At 3 months old, babies have discovered their hands and are busy practicing their grasp. Combine this into something exciting during tummy time and they wont complain! Anika loved grasping the sand, grass, bark, leaves etc while she was on her tummy time (on my thighs) outdoors. At 3 months, their hand to mouth reflex is still developing so you can stop them (just in time :-)) from putting things in their mouth.
10. Follow the child and observe to find their interest and continue to motivate them during tummy time- Following the child and observation is the backbone of Montessori philosophy. Its also where all these ideas are derived from 🙂 At 3 months old, Anika went through a phase where toys during tummy time would annoy her! All she wanted to do is put all her energy to lift up into a push up.
11. Pictures of other babies- Babies are fascinated and love to watch other babies at around 3 months. Printing some pictures from the internet and displaying them on their eye level is a great incentive for tummy time.
12. Let them explore books with various textures- At around 3 or 4 months, many babies can comfortably balance on their forearms. Giving them books with various textures to feel keeps them reading on their tummies for longer.
13. Let them explore teethers- Most babies start teething anytime between 3-6 months. Teethers are exciting to gnaw on during tummy time and require less effort to hold compared to when babies are on their back. We love Sophie the giraffe.
Fourth Month- At four months old, babies have developed good shoulder and neck strength and almost ‘demand’ to be entertained during tummy time. This is also the time when they have a great interest in ‘motion’ and seeing things pass by. So we often did our afternoon tummy time at our local reserve where Anika could see people and cars pass by…
14. Show them “Smooth Transitions”– Babies go through a growth spurt around 4 months old, where smooth transitions fascinate them. Some examples are- cars passing by, people passing by…
15. Give them various sensorial textures to explore- Babies are sensorial learners. Giving them different kinds of sensory textures helps their brain development and keeps them motivated to do tummy time.
16. Give them real-life objects to explore– More than any ‘toy’, babies want to be and do what the other adults do. Anika loves to see how my fingers hold the brush, how I hold a spoon etc. Giving them these experiences during tummy time keeps them motivated to explore on their tummies for longer.
17. Let them ‘feel’ some raw fruits and vegetables (with hard skin)– Many babies start developing a real interest in food at around 4-5 months old and letting them explore some real fruits and vegetables with hard skin is a great way to keep them on their tummies for longer.
18. Let them see “real life”- Babies are fascinated with watching what a vacuum cleaner or a mop does and enjoy tracking their movement too! Tummy time hardly feels like a chore when they can see all these exciting things.
19. Batting and grasping mobiles– I just DIY’ed this black and white ball which a part of our Lovevery playgym into a batting mobile (sewn with elastic on top + satin ribbon). At 4 and 5 months old, its a great and exciting challenge to balance on one arm and bat it with another. At 4 months old, babies are also refining their grasp, so a grasping mobile is a great challenge for babies during tummy time.
FIFTH MONTH- Babies are now more or less comfortable with tummy time. Many are rolling or will be rolling soon. Babies are getting increasingly mobile at around this time. Read this post for details on how to support this mobility.
20. We love objects that roll- at 5 months old, which encourages movement for babies.