When to Start Tummy Time: How to Help Your Baby Tackle Their First Workout

Baby Milestones Fisher-Price Smilestones Tips for Parents

June 12, 2023

No time to read? No problem.

Here’s what you need to know to get on top of tummy time:

  • Tummy time helps enhance muscular strength that is foundational to your baby’s physical development.
  • Your kiddo will need your help along the way, as tummy time can initially take some getting used to.
  • Sensory toys—especially ones that make sounds—motivate kids to look up and start rolling over.


You’ve probably heard a lot about tummy time, and you probably still have tons of questions about this much-discussed baby activity. What is it? Why is it so important? When do you start tummy time and when do babies roll over? What if my baby hates it?

With everyone from health professionals to social media momfluencers talking up the activity, it might even feel like parenting “homework.” As an expert in play and development at the Fisher-Price Play Lab, I’m here to help you flip the script.

Tummy time and what it leads to, rolling over, are essential steps in your child’s physical development, but they don’t need to be a source of stress. Instead of seeing tummy time as one more task on your to-do list, we can make it just another part of playtime. So, don’t fear! I have answers to your questions and helpful tips so we can demystify this milestone and tackle tummy time together.


How to tackle tummy time with newborns: basic training

For new kids on the mat (or floor, or your belly), use these tactics to introduce tummy time to their daily play routine.

1. Practice tummy-to-tummy time.

It’s the same exercise, only cuddlier! Lay with your baby’s belly to your chest and talk or sing—this will encourage them to lift their head up. Make eye contact to keep them engaged.

2. Get down on their level.

Get on the floor with your baby and, once again, talk, sing and look into their eyes. Seeing you close by will make them feel more comfortable and motivated!

3. Put rewarding toys within reach.

Use toys that are high contrast (black, white and red are best for kids 0-3 months old), have interesting textures and make fun noises to encourage your baby to reach, grab and turn their head.

4. Plop them right in front of a mirror.

Who’s that other baby? Oh, it’s me! The mirror’s element of surprise and wonder will get your little one to lift up, look and, ideally, smile their cute little baby smile.

5. Give them a boost.

A tummy wedge will give your baby extra stability and help them lift their head. No wedge? Lay your baby in front of you and prop their forearms up on your leg. A comfy position for them means a less fussy baby for you!

6. Take it slow.

Do what’s right for your baby. If they seem uncomfortable, put them on their back or pick them up. If they show signs of fatigue, like yawning, turning away from toys or crying, then it’s time to try again another day—and that’s ok!

1. Use toys to guide them from belly to back.

While your baby lifts their head, slowly move their favorite toy to one side. As they turn their head to follow the toy, begin to move the toy upward. This encourages them to lift their upper body and twist to begin to roll on their back.

2. Reverse it: Use toys to guide them from back to belly.

While on their back, shake a favorite toy in your baby’s line of sight. Once their vision is locked in on the toy, slowly move it to one side and around the top of their head in a circular motion. Eventually, they’ll twist and turn their whole body toward the object and roll onto their belly!

3. Plank it.

Babies six months or older may start to find tummy time too easy! Make it a little harder by putting them in a plank. Rest their legs on top of yours and place their arms underneath their shoulders on the floor in a plank position.

When do babies roll over?

If you’re wondering when babies start rolling over, I can’t give you an exact date (wouldn’t that be nice?!). Like every milestone, this is not a one-size-fits-all situation. However, there is a general timeline for when you can expect them to start showing off those physical skills.

0-3 months

  • Lifts head
  • Extends legs
  • Briefly grasps objects

3-6 months

  • Turns head in both directions
  • Pushes chest up
  • Holds head steady
  • Rolls from tummy to back

6-9 months

  • Rolls from back to belly
  • Rolls in both directions
  • Pushes up to pivot around on stomach

Next stop: crawling! When babies learn to push up on their forearms or hands and roll over, their little bodies are slowly building the strength to take it to the next level—moving around on their hands and knees.

Why is my baby struggling with tummy time?

Although tummy time can be fun, let’s be real: we’ve also seen tears, spit up, drool and head bonks when putting babies in this position. Why might your baby hate it? It’s truly a difficult exercise for them—pretty much all babies struggle with it.

Tummy time gets babies out of their comfort zones, resulting in temporary fuss. Keyword: temporary! You and your baby can succeed with practice, patience and help from the above tips.

Parent check-in

How’s tummy training going?

If you’re still feeling stressed about it, go easy on yourself. Once your little one masters rolling over, they won’t mind it as much. It’s just getting to that point that can feel hard!

I get it—I remember doing tummy time with my son. To say he didn’t like this activity is an understatement. Screaming, red face, you name it. But it got easier over time as he started to develop those muscles. And when he rolled from belly to back the first time and saw my face over his, his face lit up with pride and the sweetest gum-filled smile!

Gentle reminder: If you ever have concerns about your child’s development, trust your gut and reach out to your pediatrician.”

Bringing a smile to milestones.

Say hello to happier parenting. We’re here to help you celebrate the little victories, let go of expectations, and pick up more positivity. Because after more than 90 years of helping families, we’ve learned that development happens naturally when fun leads the way.

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