How to Get Your Infant to Play During Tummy Time

Superyard® Folding ABC Play Mat | Photo credit: Yunita Anwar

by Dr. Kim Van Deusen, the Parentologist

Tummy time is a natural part of development for infants. And it is absolutely vital infants get tummy time during the day when they are awake and supervised. Most of the research suggests that you can start tummy time as early as 2-3 weeks old, even if it’s for only 30 seconds at a time. Most doctors suggest infants experience tummy time 2-3 times a day for about 3-5 minutes at a time. As your baby grows physically and developmentally, you can practice tummy time more often and for longer periods of time. When my children were infants, I started tummy time where they would lay on my chest and I would try to get them to look up at me or other areas in their environment and then as they grew older and stronger after the first month or so, I would start tummy time on a cushioned play mat or on a raised Boppy nursing pillow. And by the time your baby is around 4-5 months old, they can do more like 30 minutes at a time. When your child is able to roll over by themselves tummy time isn’t as essential any longer.

Many articles suggest that tummy time is best done when it’s part of a routine, first thing in the morning, after a diaper change, and after a nap. If a child as early as an infancy expects what is next in their daily routine and schedule, they are more apt to be willing to participate. The only time that isn’t ideal is right before or right after a feeding. A baby won’t want to exchange food for tummy time and their tummy might be too full to lay on after a feeding, so just like the pool, wait for 30 minutes before trying!

At first, your baby may not try to hold their head up or they may even cry when you put them down. Both of these are normal infant behaviors but don’t let either of them discourage you. Just keep trying and be consistent. I have some tips you can try below, too!

The Importance of Tummy Time

Tummy time is very important for infants for a multitude of reasons. It helps strengthen neck, head, and shoulder muscles and is a developmental skill babies need to learn in order to crawl, sit, roll over, and walk. It can also help develop motor skills so babies have more control of their body. It also can prevent your baby from developing a flat spot on their head, called positional plagiocephaly.

Superyard® Folding ABC Play Mat | Photo Credit: Kim Van Deusen

How to Get Your Infant to Participate in Tummy Time

First, start slowly. If your baby only wants to do one minute, try one minute first and then increase time each day by a minute!

Have them practice playing on their tummy on top of your chest and not on the floor.

Prop them up on a Boppy baby nursing pillow so they aren’t completely flat on the floor.

Get interactive! Play with your baby during tummy time! If they have someone near them to make them feel loved and safe, they will be more apt to stay there longer. Spend time on the floor with them, make eye contact with them, and talk with them! Keep them entertained and distracted!

Play Ideas for Infants to Encourage Tummy Time

Play Airplane – Lay on your back with your knees in the air. Lift your baby and hold them in the air facing you like an airplane. Babies will have to use their body and head to stay engaged and they will love connecting with you via eye contact and facial expressions.

Put Your Baby in Front of a Mirror – Babies love mirrors. They love to look at themselves and explore their facial features. When they have themselves to look at, they will be more engaged to stay on their tummy because they are so distracted. This is a fun way to learn about their face and body, too!

Play Music – Babies use their senses to connect with the world and they love sound and music. When music is playing, they will be more engaged with tummy time

Get Colorful Toys – When children have colorful objects to touch they will forget they are on their tummy. Babies love the toys that make sounds like a rattle or ones that make a crunching sound. Babies will especially love to play with these toys with you, so stay on the ground, get to their level, and play with them!

Get an Interactive Play Mat – If you have an interactive, colorful play mat for them to look at and explore while they are on their tummy, they will stay engaged for longer periods of time. They will love looking at all of the shapes and colors and forget they are even doing tummy time because they will be having so much fun!

My Favorite Tummy Time Play Mat

Toddleroo by North States makes three different colorful and cushioned play mats you can choose from. We own the ABC play mat and the Toddleroo Friends play mat. I love the ABC play mat because it’s a colorful educational tool where children can play and learn at the same time! Babies and toddlers can start learning their letters and associate animals that start with those letters at a young age. My son loves seeing certain animals and making the animal sounds that go with the animal on the play mat.

Superyard® Folding Toddleroo Friends Play Mat | Photo credit: Kim Van Deusen

We also love the Toddleroo Friends play mat because it has positive affirmations and encourages friendship, kindness, and inclusion. It is colorful and engaging for babies and toddlers to play on. He is intrigued by the colorful and fun background. It is exciting for them and will keep their attention for quite a while!

When choosing a playmat, there are a couple things to consider as a parent; the quality, how easy it is to clean, how easy it is to store and travel with, and how much your baby will love it. Here are all the reasons why I love Toddleroo by North States play mats and why they are such a great investment!

  1. It’s cushioned. It is soft with extra thick padding, so you can rest extra assured that your child is safe. Whether they are doing tummy time, keeping their knees safe while crawling, are rolling around, and or fall while playing on the play mat, the padded cushioning will keep them safe!
  2. It’s easy to clean. You can just take a wet towel and wipe it down! Plus it’s water resistant!
  3. It’s easy to take on the go. It is so easy to fold up, it only takes less than a minute and it folds down to a fairly small size. Since the play mat can be used indoors and outdoors, you can easily pack it into the car and take it to the beach, park, and on road trips to put in a hotel room. And it only weighs 2.75 pounds!
  4. The play mat is made of PE Foam and is hypoallergenic, BPA FREE, and non-toxic!
  5. The play mat is a great investment. It will grow with your child over the years from infancy to preschool! My daughter loves playing on it with her brother and she also uses it as a play area to dance and sing on when he is sleeping!