Tummy Time Never Get Old

August 31, 2019

Most parents of very young children are aware that their child needs Tummy Time.  They usually make great attempts at getting their baby’s tummy down on a mat and even will get down on the same level to increase the time their baby will remain happy.  In my therapeutic experience, most parents do not realize that tummy time should continue to be encouraged well past the baby stage.  

If a child hated tummy time as a baby, parents usually do not see the point in making them do it as they get older.  Children, however, continue to develop core strength and stability in their joints in this position. Often it can be a sign of immature gross motor skills when a child cannot maintain the position for long periods of time. This can lead to decreased strength in the muscles and joints. This is needed to maintain good posture and to stay seated without extra support. 

Here are a few images of what it may look like if a child is having difficulty staying on his/her tummy. 

Hips Abducted

Image #1: Legs Are Spread Open, Toes Tucked Under

The child is widening the base of support and pushing off the floor with his toes.  If he were not encouraged to stay in the position, he would have tried to sit up already.

Hip & Knee Flexion

Image #2: Legs are bent, Big Toe Hanging On 

The child may still have primary reflexes that should have disappeared by this age.  The child also may be relieving some of the weight on the torso spreading it to other stronger joints. If he were not encouraged to stay in the position, he would have completely given up and flexed both sides of his hips and sat back on his heels.

Internal Rotation

Image #3:  Legs Turned Inward

The child is trying to increase the surface area to spread the weight and take it off the torso.  If he were not encouraged to stay in the position, he would have crossed his feet.

Preferred Position

Image #4: Legs Closer Together, More Relaxed

After completing a fine motor activity such as coloring, sorting objects, lacing string through holes, completing a puzzle, or just chatting while resting on his or her elbows, a child will build more strength gradually and the muscles will become used to the posture.  You should build up time tolerance and provide less support and more verbal encouragement as opposed to physical assistance to keep the ankles and legs close together.

So the moral of this photo story is that Tummy Time Never Gets Old. Encourage your child to work on the floor. You will see improvements in many areas including increased control of the neck muscles, coordination, drawing skills, and eye movement. The list goes on from here to Neverland.

I hope you find look into tummy time helpful. You can learn about other play positions that are helpful for the development of your child. Check out this post about playing on Hands & Knees. Remember to consult with your pediatrician for a prescription to see an occupational therapist if you need more help. Additionally, you can address your concerns by contacting Playapy for Parent Coaching sessions. Have a playful day!

Amy Baez, MOT, OTR/L

Amy Baez is the Founder of Playapy and Creator of the PALS Handwriting Program. She is a pediatric occupational therapist, speaker, and parent coach with 19 years of experience. Learn more at www.playapy.com.

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