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3 Tips for Teaching a Baby to Roll Over

May 15th, 2020 | by Lindsey Moss, PT, DPT, C/NDT

Lindsey Moss, PT, DPT, C/NDT

May 15th, 2020

When Should Baby Roll Over?

Rolling over is one of the first milestones of a baby’s gross motor development.  Babies typically begin rolling over on a consistent basis around 6 months of age (both back to belly, and belly to back), though infants begin practicing as early as 3 months. Rolling is an important skill, as it is a transition from one position to another, and the first mode of mobility for a child to explore their environment outside of their immediate surroundings. Rolling has many foundational components that prepare the body for higher-level skills as baby grows, including head, trunk and pelvic rotation, weight shifting, and strengthening of core muscles (abdominals, back extensors). 

How to Teach a Baby to Roll Over

If your baby is having difficulty with rolling, here are 3 therapist-approved tips on how to teach baby to roll from tummy to back or back to tummy

1. Use visual and auditory motivators

Where the head goes, the body will follow. Using toys/music can be very helpful to entice your little one to look and follow with their eyes (or orient to sound), which will result in head rotation, and then rotation of their trunk. If you are using a toy to visually motivate your baby, you can start by placing a toy in their field of vision, then slowly bring it to one side in the direction you want them to roll.  (Take a peek at this blog: 10 Tummy Time Toys Therapists Love)

 2. Let gravity help

Does your child have difficulty starting a roll?  Initiating rolling (whether on their back or their belly) requires movement against gravity which can be difficult for your little one to start if their muscles are not yet strong enough.  One strategy that can be helpful is to start them lying on their side, so they can be successful to complete the last half of the movement.  In this position, gravity will help them rather than work against them.  As your child improves, you can begin to increase the amount of the motion they are doing within the transition.  If starting on their side is too easy, another strategy is to place them on a wedge or prop that declines, and practice rolling down.  This decreases gravity while allowing your child to experience the full transition. 

Related video: How to Teach Baby to Sit Up (Supine to Sit Transitions During Diaper Changes)

3. Weight shifting is key! 

Often times a child has difficulty rolling because they aren’t properly shifting their weight to roll.  Because of the weight of their head, it is common that their weight is distributed more on their shoulders, chest, and arms.  This results in them looking “stuck”. To help baby roll from belly to back, you can provide support at your child’s hips to shift more weight through their pelvis, and shift from one hip to the other as needed to complete the motion.   

How to Teach Baby to Roll From Tummy to Back or Back to Tummy

These strategies are great to use separately or all together to help baby roll from tummy to back or back to tummy and become more successful with this foundational gross motor skill.

The best way to help your baby learn to roll over is to give them many opportunities to practice and perfect throughout your day. As with any skill your child is learning, repetition is key!

Find More Information to Help Your Baby in These Related Blog Posts by NAPA Therapists!

About the Author

Lindsey is the lead trainer and physical therapist at NAPA Boston.  She is trained in NDT, Kinesiotaping, and CME.  She graduated with her doctorate in physical therapy from Northeastern University in 2009.

About NAPA Center

NAPA Center is a world-renowned pediatric therapy clinic with multiple clinics worldwide.

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