Tummy time milestones for three to six month olds. Plus, tips and activities for when your baby doesn’t like tummy time.
It is well known that infants should be placed on their backs to sleep. This position, as well as other precautions such as lying your baby on a flat, firm surface, reduces the risk of SIDS. However, the supine (“on the spine”) position is also associated with flat spots on babies’ heads and limits the time they are able to spend in other positions.
Babies from birth to six months will spend about 16 hours sleeping per day. It’s important during waking hours to alternate a baby’s position and encourage lots of tummy time. Placing babies on their stomach, while awake and supervised, helps build the muscles in their neck, shoulders, and back. The development of these muscles is important for future motor milestones such as sitting and crawling.
Here are some tummy time milestones you can expect to see with your three to six-month-old as well as tips for making tummy time fun for you and your baby.
Looking for tummy time milestones for babies from birth to two months and tips for doing tummy time with a newborn? Check out this post.
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Tummy Time Milestones
Keep in mind that some babies will reach motor milestones earlier than others. Some babies will take a little longer. There is a very wide range of what is considered normal. If you are ever concerned about your baby’s development, talk to your pediatrician. You can also contact your local early intervention program for a free evaluation.
3 Month Tummy Time Milestones
At three months, babies are beginning to gain good head control. They should be able to lift their heads up between 45 to 90 degrees while lying on their bellies. When place on their stomachs, they will usually have their forearms flat on the floor but may start to put weight on their arms in order to help with lifting up their heads.
If you hold a toy in front of him and move it around, a three-month-old baby will probably visually track the toy with his eyes.
Read more about how your baby’s vision develops here.
4 Month Tummy Time Milestones
By four months, babies will most likely be able to keep their heads lifted 90 degrees and centered while doing tummy time. You’ll probably notice a lot more head control. If you wear your baby in a front or back facing carrier, he will be able to hold his head up steadily to look around.
At this time, they will also start to push up on their forearms and may begin to bring their chest off the floor a little bit while lying on their stomachs.
Babies will be able to lift their heads and move their necks to follow the path of a toy or other interesting objects as you move it in front of them.
5 Month Tummy Time Milestones
Some tummy time milestones you may see with your five-month-old baby is that he will begin to push up on his hands while keeping his elbows straight and lift his chest off the ground.
Now is also the time he may start moving his hands forward to reach for toys that are placed nearby. This is a great time to start placing toys in an arc in front of your baby as he does tummy time. This will encourage him to look in all directions, reach for toys in different directions, and start trying to move toward the toys.
You may also notice movements that are precursors to crawling such as rocking on the stomach and moving the arms as if trying to swim.
6 Month Tummy Time Milestones
At six months, babies are starting to reach and grab toys when lying on their bellies. They also may be able to pivot in a circle on their tummy.
Now, you may notice that your baby ENJOYS being on his stomach because it allows him to move and explore.
At six months old, some babies have developed the muscle strength to hold themselves upright in a sitting position. In addition to tummy time, they can start sitting up independently and see their world from this new point of view.
Tummy Time Tips
What if your baby is not a fan of tummy time? It’s exciting to watch your baby develop and meet tummy time milestones but babies aren’t always excited for tummy time.
Babies may indicate they are unhappy during tummy time by crying or making negative vocalizations such as fussing or whining. Some babies might refuse to lift their heads up. Once they start rolling from belly to back, some babies might simply roll to their backs right away when placed on their stomachs.
How can you engage your baby in tummy time when they don’t seem to enjoy it? Here are some helpful tips to help your baby learn to love spending time and playing on her stomach.
1. Pick Her Up & Try Again Later
The first thing I would suggest is not to force your baby to do tummy time if she’s clearly not happy about it. Pick her up or let her play on her back BUT try again later.
My son sometimes loves to play on his belly and sometimes he hates it. I can’t find any real pattern as to when he enjoys it and when he doesn’t. When he expresses that he’s not interested in tummy play, I simply pick him up or change his position and we try again later that day.
At the very least, I am able to find one time each day that my son will tolerate being on his stomach to play. Usually, he will lie on his belly several times throughout the day, even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time. As he has gotten older, we’ve been able to increase the length of time that he tolerates being in this position.
2. Mirror, Mirror
Babies are social by nature. They love looking at faces and they love looking at other babies (this includes themselves)! When my three-month-old is crying, standing in front of the mirror ALWAYS gets him to calm down and start laughing at his reflection.
A stand-alone mirror is a great tool to use during tummy time. This one even comes with high contrast pictures for your baby to look at (when she gets tired of looking at herself)!
Introducing a mirror to your baby is also a fantastic way to help them learn the concept of “self” which is important for their social-emotional development.
3. Fun Toys
At this age, babies love toys that are visually appealing and make noise. As they develop better hand-eye coordination and are able to start reaching for toys, ones that are easy to grasp, like soft toys or rings, are ideal.
Tummy toy ideas for 3 to 6 month old:
- board books or soft books (cloth or vinyl)
- musical toys – maracas, bells, rattles
- soft balls or blocks
- ringed toys that are easy to grasp
Toys that light up and play music will motivate my son to lift his head and keep it elevated for a good amount of time. We discovered by accident that he loves looking at my toddler’s dancing Elmo toy. During tummy time, he will keep his head lifted to watch Elmo dance and sing.
Find more fun toy ideas for tummy time here!
Or if you’re feeling creative, check out this list of awesome tummy time toys you can make yourself!
4. Play a Game
Along with stimulating objects, studies found that babies tolerated tummy time better with maternal (or parental) attention (source).
Try engaging your baby in a game of Peek a Boo while he’s lying on his stomach. Get down on the floor with him so he can see your face. Cover your face with a cloth or swaddle blanket and pull it down, smiling and saying Peek a Boo.
5. Read A Book
Tummy time is a great time for storytime.
Although your baby’s vision is developing rapidly at this point, I still find that high contrast pictures will attract babies’ attention the most. Books that are in black and white like Hello Baby Animals are great for tummy time.
6. Sing A Song (Finger-play)
Try singing a song to your baby while his doing tummy time. I especially recommend songs with finger play so your baby can watch your hands as you are singing.
Some examples of finger play songs:
- The Finger Family
- Itsy Bitsy Spider
- Open Shut Them
- Wheels on the Bus
7. Modified Screen Time
Yes, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the use of screen media for children less than 18 months. However, I offer this tip based on a study that used a video designed for infants as a tool to help engage a 7-month-old during tummy time.
Position an iPad or laptop where baby has to lift his head to see the video and play a baby-friendly music video.
Another option could be to video chat with family during tummy time. Call up grandparents or cousins and hold your phone up so your baby lifts his head to see the screen.
8. Change The Environment
We typically do tummy time on a blanket or our foam play mat in the living room. Sometimes I’ll try placing my son on his belly on the rug in the kids’ bedroom or on an activity gym play mat. Every now and then, I like to switch it up and see how my baby tolerates being on his belly in a different environment.
One of my favorite places to do tummy time right now is outside. This gives him plenty of new objects to look at and sounds to hear. Lying on the grass on a blanket is a new experience. Being in a new environment may motivate your baby to lift his head and look around to visually explore this new place.
Final Thoughts on Tummy Time
Tummy time is important for young babies. It helps develop the muscles needed to reach gross motor milestones like sitting up and crawling. Some babies might not enjoy tummy time at first, but there are ways to make more fun for you and your baby.
What are some other tummy time tricks that worked for you and your little one? Let me know in the comments!
Related Posts on Baby Development:
- The Best Toys for Babies Who Hate Tummy Time
- DIY Toys to Make Tummy Time Fun for Babies
- Tummy Time Tips for Newborns
- The Best Developmental Toys for Babies (A Month by Month Guide)
- How to Prevent Flat Head in Babies