Why Is Tummy Time Important?

Why is tummy time important?

February 18, 2018 / Diane L Crecelius, PT, CEO

Today parents are offered so many options for positioning for their babies.  You can place your baby in a swing, in a bouncy seat, in a stroller, in a car seat, in a Bumbo seat, in a Johnny jump up and in a high chair.

Actually, the best place for your baby when not in your arms is on the floor.  This gives your child the opportunity to explore their new world.  Place you child on their back under a baby gym so they can reach and play.  This will help your baby to discover their hands and improve eye hand coordination.

Now, play on the tummy.  This is very important.  Why?  Let me explain.

Lying on the belly requires that an infant be able to lift his/her head (this is called extension of the neck) progressing to propping on forearms (more extension now involving the upper half of the back) followed by propping on straight arms (even more extension of the back).

Tummy time gives the child a different visual field to look at and explore.

The strength and endurance required to maintain your position on your belly as well as to weight shift to lift an arm and move is very difficult.  Babies often resist this position for an easier position of flexion – lying on their back or snuggling on their parent’s chest.

The head/neck control a baby gains while playing on their tummy allows them to have more success with being held upright as well as gaining the skill of sitting.

Strength in the trunk (the back and belly) helps a child progress to sitting on their own.  A balance is needed between the belly, neck and back muscles (flexion and extension) as well as arm strength in order to have success with sitting.

When a child first begins to sit, he/she will prop on straight arms.  This arm strength was gained during tummy time propping on first bent then straight arms.

Fun tip:  Try this yourself!  Lie on your belly and prop on your forearms and then on straight arms.  Feel how hard it is to prop on straight arms.  Now you can understand why your child might resist this position.  Also, you can understand how much strength arms can develop in this position.

Another fun tip:  First lie flat on your belly with you arms flat at your sides.   Lift your head and look around you.  Now prop on your forearms and look around.  Finally, prop on extended arms and look around.  Notice how your visual field (what you see) changes.  This is important for a child to expand what they see as well as to mature their vestibular system (the ability of the senses within your head to adjust to changes in position).

Developmentally, a child progresses from sitting propped on straight arms to weight shifting and reach with each arm to play.  This weight shift and reach was first learned while on their tummy.

Ultimately, a child will begin to sit with hands free.  This means the child has achieved a balance of strength and endurance of the muscles in their neck, back and belly (their trunk) allowing the child to maintain an upright sitting position for functional play.

Continue to challenge your child’s development by seeking out the knowledge on how to push their progress to each next step.

For all your child’s developmental checklists go to www.abcpediatrictherapy.com.

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