Your Guide to Tummy Time for the First 6 Months

May 31, 2024


By guest author Dr. Beth Achterhoff DPT, PES, FNS

Baby laying on their tummy reaching for a ball toy while mom claps

Featured toy: Wimmer™ Sensory Ball

Hello new and expecting parents! Discover how you can foster your child's development through brief, intentional tummy time play activities. Hear from Dr. Beth Achterhoff, one of our resident child development experts. As she shares a guide to physical development through the first six months of baby's life. 

Why tummy time is so important:

  • Strengthens baby's neck, shoulders, arms, and back
  • Develops critical motor skills
  • Precursor to sitting, crawling, standing, walking
  • Tummy time, along with being held upright, can assist with limiting time in car seats, bouncers, and swings that can promote a flat head or “tight neck”. 
  • Without tummy time, it is possible baby will be behind in strength development, which could impact their ability to sit, or stand.
  • In a 2008 study acknowledged by the APTA, it was noted that “those that saw an increase in development delays said that lack of tummy time is the number one contributor to the increase in cases” of gross motor delays. 
  • With consistent tummy time play, by 4-6 months you'll see an increase in baby's core strength allowing them to more easily learn to roll over and be more interactive with toys and loved ones while engaging in floor play. 
Mom and baby smiling and looking at one another while playing with an activity cube toy

0-2 Months

Tummy time is a great exercise to promote emotional bonding with your baby. Start with baby on your chest in a reclined position to promote a safe and comfortable environment for baby to start working on head and neck control. Enhance this bonding activity by turning it into skin-to-skin time!

Next, try short sessions of 3-5 minutes of floor time 1-2 times per day after baby wakes up from a nap or after a diaper change. Use your favorite play mat on a safe, smooth area of the floor. Lay down next to baby and gently massage their back and toes. Physical contact is important for baby to feel the warmth of an emotional bond. Hum, sing or simply talk and tell baby stories to expose them to new words and sounds. Pediatricians recommend that by about 2 months of age, babies get 15-30 minutes of TOTAL tummy time per DAY. 

A few helpful tips: Try play time while baby is actively awake, not sleepy. Avoid the time right after feeding if it make's baby tired. Feeding can require a lot of energy from baby. Remember, every baby's tolerance for tummy time or other forms of play is different - that ok! Follow baby's cues so you and baby both have a positive experience.

Dad and baby gazing into a mirror while laying on their tummies

Featured toy: Wimmer™ Discovery Mirror

2-5 Months

Baby begins to see colors as the rods and cones within their eyes develop. They may start to smile at 3-4 months and start turning their head towards sources of sound. Practice tummy time for up to 45 minutes per day. Start with 15-minute intervals and slowly work up the time to the full 45 minutes. For added support, roll a towel and position under baby’s chest with their arms forward and tucked in to support their upper torso.

To promote emotional bonding, practice mimicking by laying on the floor next to baby and looking into a mirror. Position baby so that they can see your reflection in the mirror. Make various silly faces, wait ten seconds, and see if your baby will mimic you. 

Baby doing tummy time while gazing at a black and white triangle toy

Featured toy: Wimmer™ 3-in-1 Play Mat

4-6 Months

As baby gains strength throughout their first months of life, developmental milestones will emerge. At 4-6 months baby begins to roll over and may scoot across the floor. They also start to see all primary colors proficiently and practice bringing their hand to the midline of their body. Try to encourage baby to start reaching by placing a toy to their right or left. Shake the toy so baby can see and possibly hear the toy. This will further encourage them to reach and explore.

Mom and baby playing with rattle toy on a rug

Featured toy: Winkel Colorpop™

Another way to promote "hand to midline" playtime is by placing a soft toy in the baby’s hand while they lay on their back. Grasping toys like balls and rattles are perfect! Encourage baby to bring the hand holding the toy to their mouth. Bringing their hand to the center of their body is an essential skill for a baby’s development. This is a great activity to break up baby's tummy time routine. 

Encouraging head movement while on their tummy is an excellent way promote muscle strengthening in the neck, shoulders and back. Caregivers can use colorful high-contrast toys, like an activity ball to shake and make a noise on one side of baby’s head. Encourage baby to turn their head right and then repeat on the left side.

Baby on their knees reaching for a soft activity book

Featured toy: Happy Hive Sensory Book™

Next up, reaching and grasping! Placing toys just within baby's reach encourages reaching and stretching. Having baby move their body side to side and stretching both arms and legs is necessary for the next developmental stage of crawling!

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