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By TEIS Early Intervention Staff
Tummy Time for Fitness and Fun
Your baby may not need a personal trainer, but he or she does need some quality time developing neck and upper body strength. The good news is, no special exercises are needed, and a few minutes of play can make all the difference.
From the day they come home, babies benefit from a few short sessions on their tummy each day. The rule of thumb is 2-3 tummy time periods, each lasting 3-5 minutes.
As your baby grows and strengthens, you can increase the time gradually, helping your newborn to gain the strength for upcoming milestones, like sitting up, rolling over, crawling, and walking.
Add a Blanket, a Toy, and Some Bonding Fun
You want your baby to feel safe and engaged, so spread out a blanket and make things interesting with an age appropriate toy or two. Place the toys within easy reach at first, and you stay close too. This is an opportunity to bond and provide a reassuring touch and a calming voice.
If your baby does not like being on their tummy, a good way to start is to lie on your back and place the baby on your chest. They are sure to lift their head and move their arms to engage with you.
A few smiles and a few minutes are all it takes, yet you are providing an opportunity for essential exercise, as well as helping your child to play and interact with their surroundings.
A good time for tummy activity is after a diaper change or when your baby wakes from a nap.
The Benefits of Early Prone Exercise
Activity that looks like natural playfulness to adults can reap some big benefits.
- Improves motor skills, from gross movements like crawling to fine hand-eye coordination.
- Strengthens neck and shoulder muscles, building the strength to sit up and crawl.
- Helps prevent flat spots (positional plagiocephaly), by keeping the head up for intervals.
Over time you can increase the challenges, of course for a newborn that means placing toys a little out of reach, or even creating a circle of colorful playthings around your child to encourage crawling and exploration. By three months of age, an hour of tummy time per day, broken into a few 20-minute sessions is a good goal to shoot for.
What Not to Do
Of course, there are a few easy rules to follow to make sure tummy activity sessions are a safe and enjoyable experience:
- Never leave your baby unattended during tummy time.
- Your baby should not be left to sleep in a prone position. Place your baby on their back to sleep, according to Safe to Sleep
- Avoid tummy activities just after a feeding.
Do you have questions about tummy activities that help strengthen neck and upper body strength? Call TEIS Early Intervention at 412-271-8347 or Text INFO to 412-543-8398 During Regular Business Hours (8:00 am to 4:00 pm, M-F).