Every parent has experienced the “joys” of tummy time. For some babies, being on their belly is an absolute blast, but for others, it can be a nightmare . . . at first.
Even though lying on your stomach seems easy, to a baby, it is hard work! Being on her tummy requires your baby to use her head, neck, and back muscles to be able to look up and around her. It also requires the use of her arms and eventually her legs as she learns to crawl. It can be tough as a parent to place your baby on her belly and then hear her get upset because she doesn’t like the position she is in. If this is your baby, do not worry, the more you practice tummy time, the more your baby will love it!
The benefits of tummy time affect your baby throughout her entire life. Being on her tummy allows for muscle growth and development in your baby’s arms and hands which will later lead to hand-eye coordination, affect whether or not your child will be able to hold a pencil and write, and even contribute to your child’s endurance. While the idea of your baby being able to write may seem far off, it’s actually closer to her future than you think. By the time your baby is a toddler, she will be holding crayons, markers, paintbrushes, and other objects to help express creativity on paper. Your baby will also be stacking blocks and manipulating other toys and objects. However, without the strength and development of her muscles, she will struggle to accomplish these tasks.
Within the last twenty years, an epidemic has swept over many children, and the medical community has labeled this problem as “bucket babies”. Bucket babies are children who have spent an extensive amount of time in car seats, bouncy seats, swings, exersaucers, and other seats that restrict their movement. These are children who have become delayed at simple tasks such as holding objects or catching a ball because of their lack of muscle development. Some children have spent so much time in a seat that they actually end up skipping their crawling stage and move right into walking. Without her time spent crawling, your child will be unable to build up and properly develop any small motor muscles.
Fine motor skills also correlate with your child’s communication skills. Being able to write, color, draw, and paint are all ways that children communicate with other people in their lives. As an educator, I have had numerous children run up to me with a freshly colored picture in hand; their eyes are bright with excitement as they give it to me and say: “I made this for you!” These kids have been proud of themselves for the gifts they could make me, and I can’t imagine the frustration that a child must feel when they are unable to connect with others this way.
As parents and caregivers, we can put a stop to the “bucket babies” trend by allowing our babies as much tummy time as possible. A good rule of thumb to follow is to allow your baby to stay in a seat for only fifteen-minute increments. Sing, read, and play with your baby during her tummy time, place age-appropriate toys close by, and your baby will find herself enjoying this time more each day. Small motor muscles and development will not happen instantly, but with a little hard work, patience, and understanding tummy time will become a special time for you and your child.