Thursday, January 7, 2010

Encouraging Kids to Play on Their Belly

Lately, there has been lots of hype about putting babies on their belly during playtime. I am so glad for that, because it helps them to develop head, neck, trunk, and leg muscle strength. It is also a good position for visual development, digestion, and production of sounds. Babies who do not tolerate lying on their tummies are most likely going to be delayed with the gross motor skills of rolling and crawling. Whether the baby is placed on a "tummy time" mat or just over the parents lap, this is a good position!

But guess is not just a position for babies! Children of all ages can benefit from lying on their belly while on the floor or a firm bed. A good time to encourage this could be as they are looking at a book, rolling trains on a track, playing video games or board games, or while watching TV. Many children will fatigue quickly because they don't have strong upper bodies, which can correlate to delayed coordination or poor stamina for handwriting and fine motor activities. What you want to see is that the child can prop up on their forearms with their elbows flexed and their head not sinking, and shoulders relaxed not hunched. Some children will roll to one side or just choose to sit up when this position becomes too difficult.

Some ideas to strengthen these muscles include:
1. Yoga
2. Animal imitations: snake, worm, alligator (lay down on belly and clap arms as if they are the teeth chomping down)
3. Wheelbarrow walk- for kids less strong, hold their hips instead of their feet
4. Push-ups
5. Army crawl (AKA commando crawl) through an obstacle course of pillows and under furniture

I have a fabric tunnel that my son and daughter love to crawl and army crawl through. Sometimes I put it next to the couch cushions and other pillows to set up a long obstacle course to climb through. Sometimes we go through it forward and other times backwards. Crawling backwards can really help with the trunk and arm strength too.

For kids who dislike this position, either have the sibling or yourself to get down on the floor to play with them. Often, a distraction may help them forget how much work it really is to play while lying on the belly!


  1. Great post. I wish I had seen these tips before. Both my children needed more tummy time as toddlers. They had plenty as babies and loved it. But were so keen to run and move that when they did sit I was glad and didn't think too much about tummy time. We did eventually get to it and it made a difference.

    It's now a favourite position for daddy storytime. So the littlest gets it by default all the time.

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