Crawling – Part One: Tummy Time

By Rubi

When taking the Assistants to Infancy training we studied the development of movement (voluntary and involuntary). Among the voluntary movements there are many important milestones, including one important one that my own child has just mastered, crawling.

One of the most important preliminary exercises that will assist a baby to learn to crawl, is tummy time.  The importance of tummy time cannot be understated as it leads to the strengthening of a baby’s core, back and neck muscles, eventually strengthening the shoulders, forearms and wrists; all contributing factors to a baby’s physical development and ability to crawl.

The Area for Movement:

In Montessori we have a place for everything and everything has a place, therefore we have a specific area for babies to exercise, (which of course includes “tummy time”), and we refer to it as “The Area for Movement”.  The Area for Movement consists of a movement mat, a mirror, and a low shelf with different material (toys) as well as some pictures on the wall and mobiles hanging from the ceiling.

The movement mat is an important tool to use since it will allow the infant to develop voluntary movement in a safe and comfortable place.  This place also encourages the infant to be independent since he/she is able to explore different objects, observe mobiles or just practice some rolling on his/her own while mom is observing from the distance.

The Area for Movement could be placed in the infant’s room or in the living room, whatever is most suitable for your family’s space and preference.  We chose to arrange the area in our Daughter’s bedroom.

The movement mat should be approximately 75” x 40” made of dense foam or a soft yet firm material.  Ours was purchased at Ikea and was originally sold as a “mattress top”, however many options are on the market.  For more information on setting up your Area for Movement, please read Christie’s blog post on setting up the home environment

How I introduced Tummy Time to my baby:

Putting my Montessori education into practice with my child is not always as easy as I would hope.  We introduced tummy time to our daughter about two weeks after we brought her home from the hospital, which at the time was quite easy to do as she seemed to prefer sleeping on her stomach (not doctor recommended due to a higher risk of SIDS).  After a month or two she became very fussy when we put her down on a flat surface such as her movement mat.   Our daughter would become very upset if we left her on the movement mat for more than a minute or two and I struggled to find a solution to this problem.

The solution that finally worked was quite simple:  We started placing our daughter on her stomach for a very short time (about 20 seconds worked for us, but each baby is different so if you baby is more comfortable on the mat you might go longer), once or twice per day.  While she was on the mat, my husband or I sat with her and showed her various materials such as rattles and pictures.  She slowly became more comfortable spending time on her tummy and as she did we increased the amount of time from 20 seconds to 30, 40, etc. and gradually increased the number of tummy time sessions to 3-4 per day. This process took a lot of patience, but it worked.

If your baby is having a lot of problems with Tummy Time, I would also suggest that you experiment using firm pillows to prop your baby up in a more comfortable position.  With our daughter we found that a nursing pillow worked well, as shown in the following picture.  We started using the nursing pillow in this way at around 3 months until she was comfortable without it:

At 5 months my daughter started sitting up on her own and wanted to be in this position at all times, but I still managed to encourage tummy time every day.  At six and a half months she started creeping backwards and rolling to places to get around; at seven months she was on her hands and knees, a good sign that she would be crawling in a month or so. She stared crawling a week before she turned nine months and I was the happiest mother ever as all of my efforts, and hers, had been rewarded.

Happy with Tummy Time

For more information on your babies growth, care and development in the first year, I recommend the book: Baby Day by Day, by Dr. Ilona Bendefy, DK Publishing.

For more information on how to improve your child’s physical development, I recommend the book:
Why Motor Skills Matter, by Tara Losquadro Liddle, M.P.T., McGraw-Hill.

I also highly recommend the following article about the importance of crawling: What’s So Important About Crawling? 

Don’t forget to enter to win the Five Pack of Toys from Beginning Montessori by commenting on our blog or our facebook page with something you’d like us to write about in future posts.  Entries must be submitted by Saturday, August 24 11:59PM PST.   (Contest has now closed.)


Filed under 0-3 Months, 3-6 Months, 6-12 Months, Play Area/Toys, Rubi

5 responses to “Crawling – Part One: Tummy Time

  1. Not sure I agree with so much effort on the part of adults to encourage typical development. I tend to agree with Magna Gerber’s RIE and Janet Lansbury’s approach. Babies will roll over onto their tummies when they are physically able to do so. When I am on my tummy, it strains my neck and back to hold up my head for a long length of time, and I am fully myelinized. (I probably should be doing some yoga! ;0) I do agree from my AMI A to I training that we should challenge the next developmental level; so, it’s a judgement call as to what each individual baby needs. I do like the notion that babies, when carried in slings, are having a kind of tummy time too.

    • I appreciate your comment and truly agree that a child should never be forced to do something that could hurt him or her. The importance of tummy time is one of the main differences between the Montessori method and the RIE approach.
      I would begin with this beautiful quote from the book The Absorbent Mind: “Only through freedom and environmental experience it is practically possible for human development to occur.” My daughter began rolling over at almost 3 months from back to tummy; she wasn’t able to roll back from her tummy to her back since she didn’t have the strength, the control or coordination to do so. She also disliked to be placed on a flat surface (supine or prone) at all times and I believe that in order for a child to engage with the environment, the child must be free to move and I was offering her a safe place to gain control over her body.
      She spent a lot of time in our arms and I still wanted to give her the freedom to practice moving on her own but every time she was on the movement mat she would end up on her tummy and was very unhappy. This is why I wanted to help her enjoy the time that she was on the movement mat on her tummy and the process was successful for us! I was always respectful to my daughter’s needs and closely observed her for signs of distress. I took cues from her as to what she was able to handle in each moment she was placed on a flat surface.

  2. Kim

    Thank you for this post Rubi. It is very important that people see that their efforts pay off.

    From a physiological point of view, ‘tummy time’ is one of the most important aids to development we can give to our children. Though it can be challenging and some infants are uncomfortable, or even distressed, to spend time of the tummy the benefits out weigh this discomfort.

    I was lucky, as I had several friends give birth the year prior to my daughter being born, I knew that I had to start ‘tummy time’ the day she was born or it would just grow to be more of a challenge. To help ease the discomfort of being on her tummy I would lay her on the edge of the couch and lay beneath it allowing her to see me without having to lift her head as much, as she strengthened her neck. My daughter wanted to be held constantly, so to help incorporate ‘tummy time’ and her attachment to being held I spent may hours laying on the floor with her on my chest. This way she could strengthen her neck, arms, and shoulders and be close to me at the same time.

    Five months later my daughter is thriving. After rolling over at 3 months and commando crawling at 4 months, she is now happy to explore her space and goes straight to where her shelf is when placed on the floor. She scares me a little that she is going to start crawling before I have prepared the whole house, but it is just another exciting chapter in our lives.

    This web site by the BC government outlines the importance of ‘tummy time’ and some ideas to parents incorporate ‘tummy time’ into their daily lives.

  3. Allison Manuel

    I’m also a to i trained and just completed the RIE foundations training and i know about anatomy from my yoga training. Here is a link with a Canadian study saying its not necessary Being on your back, esp. with all the drawing in to the core babies do really does build abdominal and upper back strength. A French study just said the same. Many gross motor timelines show that rolling happens first! I think it’s best for us to follow our a to i training and observe. I didn’t force tummy time with my daughter because she was miserable and I did some more research and found it is uncomfortable in an unnecessary way for many babies. Some babies are fine with it. A dance teacher I know did a 30 minute lesson with childcare providers to show just how difficult rolling over is because any daycares force tummy time and many children are stuck in that position for way way too long. The back to sleep campaign, which was necessary in preventing sids really freaked pediatricians into over stressing tummy time. Anyways, tummy time wasn’t for my daughter, but like anything, parents need to make thoughtful informed decisions not based on fear.

  4. Pingback: Montessori Ideas: Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda | whiningisclosed

Leave a Reply to Kim Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s