Help Your Baby to Roll

Tummy time has prepared the baby's forearms and hands to play with toys and crawl, and it also has strengthened the muscles required for rolling. Many babies are extremely eager to move, wiggle, and reach for visually exciting toys and people. They are also highly motivated to roll. Rolling enables your baby to independently change his position, bringing a new view and access to toys.

Rolling from Tummy to Back

Between two and five months of age, a baby will have developed the head control and strong arms to lift his shoulders, shifting his weight to the side toward which he will roll. His kicking legs will help him roll from his tummy to his back. Although some babies take full advantage of this new way of moving, others may skip rolling and go right into sitting and crawling to explore their environment. The baby in the photo shifts weight from her left to right side as she reaches for books. These movements will  help her to soon roll over.

Although your baby may be quite startled the first time he succeeds in rolling, continue to encourage this skill. Rolling not only builds strong muscles and coordination, it encourages your baby to reach for objects. Parents can help their baby roll from tummy to back by following these steps:

  • Gently push baby's shoulder to encourage him to move onto his side.
  • Place a small pillow behind your baby to help him lie on his side
  • Hold a toy in front of his eyes and slowly move it upward toward his back.
  • Remove the pillow to encourage rolling onto the back.
  • Gently move his shoulder and hip to guide rolling.
  • Reward with the toy in easy view.

Another strategy is to place your baby, belly down on a small blanket. Gently raise one side of the blanket so that he is lifted into the rolling position. Once he knows what it feels like to roll, it may be easier to initiate the movement on his own.

Rolling from Back to Tummy 

Your baby may not roll from back to tummy until about five or six months of age because this maneuver requires stronger neck and arm muscles. Parents can help their baby accomplish this by following these steps:

  • Gently bend the baby's hip and knee on one side. This will now be called the leading side.
  • Push at the shoulder o the leading side so that he is lying on his side
  • Place a toy in view and help him reach toward it with the arm on the leading side.
  • Help him to keep the lower leg straight. The lower arm may be positioned either straight up overhead or down by his side so that it is out of the way.
  • Move the toy so that the baby rolls over in order to see it.

Rolling should involve the shoulders moving separately from the hips rather than the body moving like a log. This can be promoted by gently pulling the upper shoulder back as the leg leads the movement. The trunk, arms and head should follow. You may want to use the blanket strategy described above to help baby roll from tummy to back or position your baby on a slight incline so that gravity helps him roll downward.

Reminder! Don't forget to help your baby roll both to the left and to the right sides.

Your baby will be proud when he can roll onto his tummy all by himself. By the time his is six months old, he will be rolling just for this delightful movement experience, an experience that provides wonderful  vestibular and proprioceptive sensory stimulation.

Rolling isn't only for Babies!

Older children or adults may benefit from the strong vestibular stimulation provided by a rolling down a hill. In addition, rolling up inside a blanket on a level or inclined surface provides provides deep pressure proprioceptive stimulation. The therapist in the last video demonstrates how to incorporate knocking over bowling pins into the activity.

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