Early childhood interventions that target infant movement behaviours can have a positive impact on the physical, social, and emotional health and development of children. The Early Movers project, led by Valerie Carson and colleagues, found that not all playtime activities that involve being still should be discouraged – as we might expect, some of these forms of play, like reading to your baby, is good for their development. They also found that tummy time, baby’s first form of active play, enhanced overall development in young infants and should be encouraged.

What is the research about?

Carson and their team followed current guidelines that suggest babies spend at least 30 minutes on their tummy while awake. The research went a step further and focused on the relationship between different types of baby playtime activities and the impact on when baby milestones are reached.

What did the researchers do?

Based in Canada, the Early Movers project involved following 411 parents and their babies over the first 6 months of their life to track their playtime activities and their movement milestones via a survey. These milestones included sitting, crawling, and assisted and independent standing and walking. Researchers assessed the link between babies’ active play in the form of tummy time (being on the tummy while awake) and when those babies reached movement milestones. Links with milestones were also assessed for less active awake time activities such as time in a car seat, pram or sling, and watching screens. Every parent’s favourite word – sleep – was also assessed.

What were the results?

The researchers found that supporting active play and reading in the first months of life positively affects when baby’s milestones are achieved. As far as active play goes, it is confirmed that tummy time is a winner! For babies who are not yet on the move, spending time on their tummy is an important everyday activity. Tummy time can begin from the first weeks of life and may be included during story time with their parents or carers. Looking at contrasting pictures on pages, bonding with carers and strengthening neck muscles, were all shown to benefit long term development. Importantly, the researchers found that it doesn’t matter how tummy time is accumulated across the day. Whether baby has a long period of tummy time or lots of short goes of tummy time, so long as it adds up to 30 minutes or more across the day the benefits are the same. This study found that babies who completed more tummy time scored better on the scale of movement behaviour and were also assessed by a physical therapist to be more advanced in their motor skills. Those babies also showed significant gross motor skill development (think reaching, rolling and crawling) compared to those who spent more time on their backs. Those who spent more time in prams, carriers etc and watching screens had slower gross motor development. Interestingly there were no associations for sleep, so be assured if you have a poor sleeper, you will be tired, but your baby’s development does not seem to be impacted!

So, what was the main finding?

While ultimately all babies will master the skills of sitting, crawling, standing, and walking before their second birthday, the timing of when these milestones occur has shown to be positively improved by including 30 minutes of tummy time a day during the first 6 months of life. In addition, reading to infants has also been shown to improve the baby-parent bond and communication skills.

Read the full research article:

Find out more about tummy time and baby’s movement by joining INFANT in your local area (group sessions and the My Baby Now app).

  Parents with a baby less than 12 months old can access the My Baby Now app by:

  • Clicking here and completing the survey to register.
  • Downloading the app from the App Store or Google Play and registering for a new account.