The magic of tummy time - moving for good health and development!

Hayley Ellis, Learning and Development Officer at Small Step Big Changes in Nottingham, describes how encouraging tummy time can provide an important boost to a baby’s development.

Hayley Ellis

Tummy time’ is a great way to develop a baby’s physical abilities. It will help a baby to develop the skills needed to roll, sit up, crawl and eventually, walk. It will also develop the muscles in their neck, shoulders, arms and hands, helping them to hold a toy, lift a spoon, and eventually to make a mark and write.

For those not familiar with the term, tummy time describes when you place a baby on their stomach while they are awake and someone is watching.

Experiencing tummy time can play an important part in many different areas of child development. Tummy time promotes emotional bonds, encourages language development, helps build a baby’s brain and keeps them active through play. This in turn releases chemicals in the brain that help babies realise their full potential.

But many parents report that their little ones do not like tummy time and that they often cry when placed on their tummies. So, Small Steps Big Changes (SSBC) wanted to look at ways to promote the benefits of tummy time. We wanted to provide opportunities for tummy play, support parent’s confidence, and demonstrate how tummy time can be fun and offered in lots of ways.

The Tummy Time project incorporated tummy play within our Baby Massage sessions, and we also created a tummy time toolkit to support a consistent approach to the delivery of key messages and to promote to a wider audience via our social media platforms. The toolkit included:

  • Practitioner training
  • An information leaflet
  • A Tummy Time poster
  • A Tummy time song
  • Social media graphics

The practitioner training was completed by the SSBC Family Mentors responsible for delivering Baby Massage. The session covered the benefits of tummy time in relation to child development, and how to provide tummy time and age-related tummy play. Examples of tummy time play equipment included ideas for low-cost and no-cost tummy time toys.

To support the smooth delivery of tummy time messages, a guidance document was added to the current Baby Massage session guidance, which highlighted what should be completed and discussed each week to build parent’s confidence. Feedback from parents was completed in weeks one and five of the six-week Baby Massage course to measure the growth of their confidence.

The outcomes from the first Baby Massage cohort to include tummy time as part of the session, showed that most of the parents were providing more or the same amount of tummy play.

Some parents were surprised at how much the sessions supported, encouraged and built-up their knowledge of the importance of tummy time to a baby’s development. One parent noted how after attending the Baby Massage sessions, their baby was less upset and enjoyed tummy time more than previously

Another mum highlighted the fact that she hadn’t been aware of the different types of tummy time and she had realised that her son was having more tummy time than she had initially thought. In addition, the Family Mentor team reported that several of the babies had rolled for the first time during the sessions.

Tips on supporting tummy time for parents have now been included on the SSBC website. And for practitioners, to help them support families, details have been included in the SSBC Small Steps at Home Toolkit and the SSBC Child Development Resource. We’ve also produced a toolkit of resources, including social media graphics (see below), available to download to support partners to share tummy time messages across their networks and with their families.

Our animation to remind parents of the importance of tummy time, even comes with a really catchy song. Watch the animation

The next steps are to add tummy time into some of our other groups and activities, produce activity sheets showing parents how to make low-cost and no-cost tummy time toys and continue spreading the word about tummy time.

It’s back for sleep - tummy to play
Tummy time is here to stay
It builds our brain and helps us think
Releasing chemicals and making links!

About A Better Start

A Better Start is a ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Five A Better Start partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life. Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language and communication.

The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. It is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier

The National Children’s Bureau is coordinating an ambitious programme of shared learning for A Better Start, disseminating the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.

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