Five Tummy Time Toys

Encourage All-Important Tummy Time

Even though we are learning how important tummy time is for babies, many parents complain that their baby hates tummy time at first. Newborns will, more often than not, vocalize their unhappiness about playing on their bellies.

But tummy time is critical to a baby's physical development, so it's important that frustrated parents don't throw their hands up in the air and stop trying. You can start tummy time early on and break it up into five to ten-minute increments throughout the day if your baby gets fussy. With time and practice, your baby can come to enjoy this important playtime. Studies suggest that "access to a stimulating object" during tummy time can decrease fussing, and these five great tummy time toys will help.

1
Tummy Time Mats

baby play gym
Use a baby play gym during tummy time. PriceGrabber

A tummy time play mat provides a soft surface and features bold colors and toys to entertain your baby while she is on her belly. The Manhattan Toy tummy time mat has a mirror, BPA-free plastic rings and rattles, and crinkle paper. Some, like Tiny Love tummy time mat, have a horseshoe-shaped pillow, like a mini Boppy, to help prop or support your baby during playtime.

Make sure to place the play mat on the floor instead of a changing table or other surface from which your baby could inadvertently fall. Most babies do not begin to roll over until 3 to 4 months of age, but some have done so earlier.

2
Mirrors

Baby Mirror
Xjben/Getty Images

Once a baby's vision begins to develop, they love to look at faces, even if it's their own face peeping back at them. As your baby grows, you can start playing mirror games to further her cognitive and physical development. You may have already introduced your baby to mirrors, but a mirror toy is something she can explore on her own.

Place your baby on their tummy in front of a mirror toy and watch her become enamored by the face staring back at her. If your baby tends to get fussy during tummy time, the mirror might help distract her from the fact that she's stuck on her belly.

Of course, it's important to use mirrors that are safe and designed for babies, and this is a good reminder to put safety first. Even the most conscientious parents may wish to take a moment to review how to choose safe toys for kids.

3
Play Gyms

Baby on play gym.
Baby on play gym. Getty/Moment/Michael Honor

Play gyms are like beefed up versions of play mats. Mats feature toys that are connected to the play area, while play gyms have dangling toys, mirrors, teethers and even music. The biggest difference, however, is the price. Play gyms are a bit pricier, but you usually get what you pay for. Another benefit is that your little one can be entertained on her belly and her back with a play gym.

Most play gyms don't have the supportive pillows that some play mats do, but the Baby Einstein play gym comes with a small pillow for extra comfort.

4
Wrist and Ankle Rattles

Wrist and Ankle Rattles
Your baby might enjoy the sounds and feel of wrist and ankle rattles. PriceGrabber

Wrist and ankle rattles are great toys for newborns who are a bit limited when it comes to playtime capabilities. As a baby kicks her feet and flails her arms, rattles make noise and the bright colors stimulate her vision.

Some babies like to chew or suck on their wrist rattle while playing on their belly. Having something to pacify her may help to extend her tummy time a bit longer. 

Again, safety comes first and it's important to purchase baby approved wrist and ankle rattles and inspect them often for any hazards.

5
Balls and Rolling Toys

Baby with toy ball
DreamPictures/Getty Images

There are lots of things you can do with balls or rolling toys to help entertain your baby. Small balls can be rolled back and forth in front of her as a visual distraction or held in hands to suck on. You can use larger exercise balls or roller toys, like the Infantino roller pictured, to position your baby. It's inflatable and rolls back toward baby to promote crawling.

Drape your baby over the ball and, holding securely, roll your baby as she lies on top of the ball. You can even add in slightly bouncing movements to her comfort level. To maintain interest and strengthen language development, incorporate simple songs and talk to your baby as you play together.

Bottom Line on Tummy Time Toys

Tummy time is important for babies both to reduce positional plagiocephaly, the flat heads often seen on babies since it's now recommended that they sleep on their backs, and to promote the development of gross motor and fine motor skills.

A total of 30 minutes of tummy time daily (increasing to 40 minutes at age 3 to 4 months) is recommended but can be broken up into several smaller sessions. Many babies protest tummy time at first and having tummy time toys may help ease your baby through this period. For those babies who aren't pacified with toys, having your baby lie on your belly while you lie on the floor may help. In time, most babies will begin to enjoy tummy time, so don't give up if you're feeling discouraged.

Sources:

De Bock, F., Braun, V., and H. Renz-Polster. Deformational Plagiocephaly in Normal Infants: A Systematic Review of Causes and Hypotheses. Archives of Diseases in Childhood. 2017. 102(6):535-542.

Kadey, H., and H. Roane. Effects of Access to a Stimulating Object on Infant Behavior During Tummy Time. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. 2012. 45(2):395-9.

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