Movement & Learning
What happens in the first years of life not only matters, it matters a lot.
Movement is the key to learning and one of the best things you can do to help with baby’s brain growth and body development is to maximize movement experiences. There is no better way for this to start than with tummy time. Babies who spend time on their tummies learn to find out about their world much more quickly than those who don’t. Tummy time can help prevent developmental delays and flat head syndrome (plagiocephaly) which is a consequence of spending too much time on the back. As babies are now placed on their backs for sleeping, it is important that during waking hours as much time as possible is spent on the tummy
The stomach surface has many more nerve endings than the back so a lot more touch and positional messages flow to the brain when on the tummy. This helps develop body awareness which is essential for later learning.
Benefits of Tummy Time
The most obvious benefit of tummy time is the development of muscles and muscle tone. Muscles are developed in the
Strong muscles are needed to meet the milestones of rolling, sitting, crawling and eventually walking. Tummy time facilitates good head control, balance, postural development and control over body movements. Babies learn to use their body parts together in order to move and they learn to control and overcome inborn, primitive reflexes.
Tummy time provides opportunities for a range of multi-sensory experiences. It is crucial for hand development. The smaller muscles in the hands and fingertips are important for using tools, pencil grip and writing. Tummy time is also important for visual skills as babies learn to focus on objects up close and them move their vision to a distance. Being on the tummy helps with the drainage of tubes from the ears and nose and can stop blockages that can cause ear infections which effect, balance, hearing and speech development.
The When and How of Tummy Time
The earlier you start tummy time the easier it becomes for baby and yourself. As strength develops babies will want to spend more time on their tummy so eventually most of their waking hours will be spent in this position. Get down on the floor with your baby face to face. Talk to her and sing to her. Use toys, scarves and a mirror for added stimulation.
Initially some babies may fuss or cry when placed on their tummies. but this can be overcome in time. You might like to try lying baby across your lap or lying baby on your tummy. While it is not a substitute for time spent on the floor, it can help get baby used to being on the tummy. One key to success with tummy time is to start from birth with short frequent periods when baby is most content. Learning is meant to be fun and so just before they’ve had enough you can intervene to change position, or move baby on to other activities.
Equipment ideas for Tummy Time
Little Music Makers has a range of good quality toys and equipment which can be used to help you with tummy time. Here are some basic ones that I can recommend:
- A good quality playmat for instant tummy time. The mat should provide a good range of sensory experiences. Lots of things to see, touch and hear. The Gymini Kick and Play activity mat by Tinylove is an excellent product for this.
- A Scrunch ball is an inexpensive wonderful aid for tummy time. This blow up ball is soft and pliable and is a great ball for rolling on. Used in a similar way to an adult fitball this will provide many years of fun.
- There are some lovely scarves you can use for interactive games such as "peek a boo".
- A scooter board is a fun way to provide lots of tummy time.
- Maracas and rattles of all kinds are great for playing and focusing on while on the tummy. A wide selection of different styles can be found on this website.