The very early days and months with baby are HARD. You’re tired and your bub will probably sleep a lot but almost definitely not at night. The midwives and healthcare visitors will encourage you to do ‘tummy time’ but that’s sometimes easier said than done.
Tummy time helps babies to strengthen their head and neck although initially, they won’t be able to lift their head at all. That comes with time. So if you’re reading this and your baby is very new, try very short intervals of tummy time a few times a day.
Once your baby begins to show interest in the world around them, here are some ideas to try that will make tummy time more engaging.
Sounds obvious, right? But it’s a good place to start. Ideally books should be a part of your routine with baby from birth so it’s a good idea to combine reading with tummy time.
Books with high contrast images work really well. There’s a number of series that we absolutely love such as the ‘Where’s Mr/ Mrs…’ series by Nosy Crow and the ‘That’s Not My…’ series by Usborne.
In the early days this was a wonderful way for my middle child to bond with her little brother. We could all read stories together and it was so lovely!
High contrast visuals are a good place to start. This ‘Clever Babies Love Art’ range was a huge hit with both of my younger children:
We have a few articles on the importance of reading which you can check out here.
Suitable from birth
2. Book Circle
All you need to do is place around 4 books on the mat for baby to explore. When E was almost 4 months he was really starting to move, once he showed signs of turning around, we introduced book circles.
3. Mirror, Mirror
Babies just LOVE looking at faces – you’ve probably noticed that your bub is most engaged when looking at you! .
Initially, babies can’t actually recognise their own faces in the mirror – that comes a little later on down the line.Using a mirror for bub to gaze into will help focus and also let them explore just what the face can do.
Here’s a few variations for you:
Under 3 months – attach a Perspex (unbreakable) mirror low on a wall so baby can look at his reflection whilst lying on his back.
3-6 months – as shown in photo one, place an unbreakable mirror on the floor for a tummy time activity. Baby will need good head and neck control for this one!
5. Baby Ball Pit
This is a fun activity when baby gets a little older and starts to take notice of the world around him. When Elliott reached 5 months he was starting to reach and grab for objects so we placed a variety of balls in different textures and sizes into a tuff spot tray. A much simpler version of this is to simply place one ball in front of baby – we really like ‘o-balls.’
When trying this activity at home, please be mindful of the size of ball you use. Small items are choking hazards.
Suitable from 4 months
6. Pompom Roll
You will need:
- Cylindrical bottle (we like Voss)
- Glue gun and refills
Having a baby doesn’t need to mean buying loads of expensive toys. After all, they do outgrow items rather quickly! This homemade pompom roll allows baby to explore cause and effect without the price tag.
To recreate similar at home, put pompoms (or other colourful items) into a clear plastic bottle and seal the lid shut.
7. Nature Exploration
A nature treasure hunt can’t be a wonderful sensory experience if you have an older child too. We would often explore the items we collected and use them in play. Putting them in a sensory bottle was a great way to get Baby E (4 months at the time) involved.
8. Exploring ‘cold’
As the weather is now getting warmer here, I actually put this bottle in the freezer for a few hours so that baby E could explore ‘cold.’ Here are a few benefits of this baby play activity:
- Exploring the senses
- Helps teething babies (E loved mouthing this bottle!)
- Gross motor: E is at the stage where he is reaching and grabbing for everything. A rolling bottle is a great way to explore that.
- Tummy time fun. Helps to occupy babies whilst working on their head and neck strength.
Elliott is 5 months old here. I would recommend this activity for when your baby has good head and neck control. Never leave a baby unattended whilst they play â¤ï¸
9. Scarf Pull
Whilst we do a lot of DIY projects on this feed, we also have a love for versatile, open-ended toys. The o-ball paired with a few play silks always tops the list, gift wise.â£
When E was teeny, we used this activity as part of tummy time. He loved pulling at the silks (great for fine motor skills) and pushing the ball.â£
We also take these items on holidays with us. They are perfect for long car journeys!â£
Suitable from 4 months – this does need to be supervised really carefully due to the use of the scarf.
10.Baby’s First Painting
You will need:
- Sandwich bags
- Non-toxic paints (best to be safe!)
- Masking tape
Art isn’t the easiest activity to try with babies. Because of their tendency to mouth absolutely everything, paints aren’t a very safe option. The ‘taste safe’ alternative paint of yoghurt mixed with food colouring is great for older babies but bear in mind dairy products aren’t recommend for children under the age of 6 months.
For this activity, I placed very small blobs of non-toxic acrylics onto a piece of card, then placed it into a sandwich bag. For extra safety, use masking tape to secure the edges – curious babies have the tendency to be pretty ‘grabby!’
Suitable from 5 months – this also works as a high chair activity for older children.
11. Sensory Board
There is a full explanation on how to create this board here.
12. Baby Wipe Sensory Board
You can read more about this activity here.
Suitable from 6 months
13. Sensory Squish Bags
Follow a similar method to the painting bags by taping down the contents of the bags with painters tape. As you can see from the photo above, this was done around Halloween with some pumpkin seeds.
It’s best to double bag the contents to avoid leakage, especially if you decide to use small items.
14. Bubble Wrap
This activity works really well for tummy time and as an activity for emerging crawlers. Tape the bubble wrap down the floor with painters tape (or similar) to prevent the wrap from being pulled too much.
This needs to be done under very close supervision to avoid the risk of suffocation.
suitable from 4 months
15. If in doubt…take baby outside!
The easiest way to combine sensory play with tummy time is to take it outside! Baby E was 5 months here and almost of the move (you can just about see him push up on his toes). With younger babies, put a blanket down so that they don’t get cold / wet – as it happens, this was a beautiful Spring day in Perth, Australia.
Just as a heads up, babies can sometimes find the feeling of grass quite strange!
A note on age recommendations
I’m hesitant to put age recommendations on this post, however I know lots of people will ask. This is just a general guideline based on my own experiences.
My best advice is to watch out for signs of the next developmental stage. For example, when Elliott had sufficient head and neck strength, I introduced the ball and pompom roll. When he is started to reach and grab objects, I introduced the sensory board.
If you are at all concerned about your baby’s development, please contact your GP or health visitor.
Never leave your baby unattended while they play. Check homemade play items everytime you use them and take into consideration your babies developmental stage – there is no point rushing onto activities before they are ready!
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