If you are a parent, you may have likely heard the words “tummy time” countless times during those early years. Tummy time is important for your child’s development and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). In the early 90’s, there was a “Back to Sleep” campaign that was launched as a safety precaution and many parents were fearful of putting babies on their tummies. The AAP now promotes practicing “back to sleep and tummy to play”. Why is tummy time so important to development?
Head and neck stability
Babies begin to strengthen their neck and head control muscles more effectively while on their tummy. Tummy time can also help a baby’s head to have a break from pressure while lying on their back. This can help to prevent flat spots (positional plagiocephaly). You will notice that as they gain head and neck control, they will lift up higher and higher. Then they will begin to engage more with their environment.
Upper extremity strength
As babies begin to gain more head and neck control, they start to incorporate the use of their arms. They begin to push through their elbows and shoulders which continues to strengthen their upper extremities. Increased strength and control in the upper extremities leads to development of fine and gross motor skills.
Our postural strength is the foundation from which most other motor development occurs. When kids have weak postural skills, it is more difficult for them to complete refined fine and gross motor movements throughout development.
The same muscles that support our postural muscles support our diaphragm. As babies are laying on their tummies the surface provides resistance upon which their postural and respiratory muscles can continue to develop and strengthen.
Visual motor and visual perceptual skills
Babies can develop visual motor and visual perceptual skills on their backs as well, but this is how they develop a more comprehensive and in-depth visual understanding of their world. As babies begin visually tracking objects while on their tummies, they are beginning to have to control their eye movement in conjunction with keeping control of their head. They further develop a sense of depth and how objects move in the world.
It may seem strange that our tactile system is something we talk about while we discuss tummy time, however, it is much easier for babies to reach, grab and explore on their tummies. As they are engaging in reaching, touching and bringing everything to their mouths, they are establishing understanding about how their world feels. When we can vary the surfaces that our babies experience tummy time, we can further develop that understanding (carpet, blanket, tile, etc.) of what something feels like and where we are experiencing that stimuli. Tactile development also is strongly linked to feeding and fine motor development.
In tummy time, babies will begin to gain strength and wobble from side to side. As more skill is developed babies can become more purposeful with their weight shifting. They will shift to one side to grab a toy or pull themselves to another toy. They no longer have to move their entire body at one time. At this point, we are starting to see some movements that are more mature and coordinated.
What!? Handwriting? It’s true! We know that engaging in tummy time develops so many foundational skills that it does have an impact on handwriting. In school, kids are required to sit for long periods of time requiring postural strength. They need to have upper extremity strength and coordination for writing, zipping their coat, raising their hands, etc. Kids also need to be able to visually focus on the teacher as she moves around the room. Handwriting is one of the most complex things we ask of our kids. Tummy time can help set kids up for success.
If you are interested in learning more about tummy time as well as other areas of development, we invite you to attend our next FREE Parent Seminar:
Top 10 Things to Know About Development ** February 4, 2016 ** 7:30 -9:00 PM
Reserve your spot by calling our office at 636-928-LEAP(5327).