Please let your infant play on the floor, thank you!

The advice I find myself telling parents the most is, “Please let your infant play on the floor more.”

baby playing on floor

A note about milestones again before I rant a bit…

  • rolling begins around 4-5 months, rolling tummy to back usually comes first
  • staying sitting up without help usually starts around 6 months
  • pushing up onto their hands while on their tummy usually starts around 5-6 months
  • tummy time tolerance should be at leasttttt 5 minutes around 6 months
  • combat crawling is around 6-8 months

The reasons/excuses most parents tell me for not having their child on the floor more:

  • They hate tummy time, we’ve tried everything!
  • We have wood/tile floors so I don’t feel safe leaving him/her on the floor
  • We have pets/dogs, so I don’t want him/her playing on the floor
  • She/he likes to be in my arms
  • We just haven’t had time
  • oh, I didn’t know they had to start playing on the floor already

My responses to the above reasons/excuses:

  • First I talk about why tummy time is important (discussed in this post).
  • There are modifications you can do for tummy time (discussed in this post), and have you tried every toy or interesting activity possible with tummy time?  IF your child really hates tummy time all the time, I recommend seeing your pediatrician to make sure it’s not something more serious
  • Believe it or not, I have a number of parents that don’t have a single area rug in their house!  Pleaseee get some kind of rug so your child can play on the floor safely.  You can also get those foam puzzle pieces, but I’m not a huge fan, since they’re a pretty hard surface as well.
  • Pleaseee section off an area for them to play if you have pets, it can be done!
  • I’m sure every child wants to be in your arms, but I’m sure they want to play too, your face has to get boring to them at some point 🙂
  • It’s very possible to use 5-10 minutes 3-5 times a day to work on floor time activities
  • I always take a moment to educate my patients’ parents on milestones since it seems a few haven’t heard anything about them. (Milestones 2-4 months) (Milestones 6-9 months)

So with those excuses, I have to remind parents of the following:

  • your infant will not get stronger if you’re holding them all the time and they’re not forced to hold their head up or hold their chest off the floor when they’re on their tummy
  • your child’s balance will not magically improve if they’re never put in the position to practice sitting balance- ie they will not learn to sit by themselves if you’re always holding them in your lap
  • your child will never learn to move to anything interesting if you’re always bringing the interesting items to them
  • sitting on a bed or lying on their tummy on a bed is actually harder than sitting/lying on the floor

If you keep picking up your child or bringing them toys and other fine items,

  • your child WILL learn that crying/whining incessantly will help them get out of a position that makes them exercise a little
  • your child WILL learn that if they cry and reach their arms up in the air for you that you will pick them up so they don’t have to move by themselves
  • your child WILL learn that if they cry and gesture towards a toy that you will bring them the toy

So please please please let your child play on the floor more, with supervision of course! 🙂  And yes of course, you will see some of the following expressions along the way, but your child will be stronger and have better balance, and thus more mobility soon!

And because I like a little competition every now and then, here’s a cute video on a baby crawling race 🙂  If you search you tube you will come across a lot!

Categories: Child Development

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31 replies

  1. I think I’ll be sharing your blog with some of the parents I work with! I work in schools and more than anything I just want to say to some of them “Please, please let your kid play!!! And no that doesn’t mean video games or watching movies, or sitting at a table and doing a puzzle!” I get so many referrals for “clumsy” kids who have never been encouraged to play and explore their gross motor skills.


  2. Hi! My 10 month old is not crawling, I am putting her on the floor as much as possible. She can flip from stomach to back and reverse, also sit once placed in a sitting position. She does not tolerate being on her stomach more than a minute or two, I try to disctract her enough the get a few more minutes out of tummy time. Should I just let her cry for a few minutes on her tummy and see if she can work through the fustration?


    • Hi Rena, I would try some other methods of tummy time since it’s clear your kiddo is not a fan of tummy time. By 10 months, they should at least tolerate 5-10 minutes or so. I would first talk to your pediatrician to rule out any other medical problem that may cause them to hate tummy time. If you’re sure there’s no other concerns, then I would try tummy time on a ball or on your knees or over a boppy pillow as discussed in this post:

      You can also practice kneeling at a surface to help your child progress to pulling to stand, since that is a skill they should start doing around this age. Kneeling is another way to work on tummy time without being fully face down, and helps to strengthen arms, hips and bottoms. here’s some info on kneeling here:

      try some of those strategies to shoot for at least 5 minutes of tummy time or 5 minutes of being on their knees. Make sure to find a super interesting toy or object to keep your child entertained or distracted 🙂 let me know if that helps or I can provide other ideas.


      • Thank you, I am going to call the nurse about the issue to see if she feels a dr. visit is in order. I tried placing the boppy under her, it really did help, she stayed put much longer that way, and flipped through a board book, which hasn’t happened until now.


  3. Glad to hear you’ve had some progress with the tummy time, hope she continues to enjoy it more, let me know if you have any more questions! 🙂


  4. Love your blog, and I’m 100% on board with your philosophies, but I don’t agree with the milestones.

    My son was a floor baby right from birth. Whatever time he didn’t spend in arms or in his crib, he spent on the floor. As a result, he began “combat crawling” at 2 months and was crawling up on hands and knees at 4.5 months — five if you account for him being post-term. He wasn’t some kind of super baby; I’ve known plenty of other parents whose kids were crawling and sitting at five months. And I can’t imagine a healthy baby not being able to roll before four months; most are 2-3 months.


    • Thanks for your comment! Glad to hear your son has been progressing well! And the milestones are more of a general guideline for parents. But your son is a good example of how tummy time really helps increase strength to lead to independent mobility. Let me know if there’s anything else you’d like me to discuss on the site!


      • You need to check out this other blog:

        The woman claims to be an early childhood specialist and is very much pro-infant/newborn “rights,” only treating them with “respect and dignity” seems to entail neglecting them horribly. No tummy time, on the back ALL of the time (even to play), no toys — she’s even experimented upon her own niece, who was evidently removed from her parents’ home and placed in foster care because they “couldn’t take care of her.” There are video clips of this baby at 7 months behaving like a 2-month-old… and then again at 11.5 months beginning to combat-crawl.


  5. I think it’s important to make some distinctions. Tummy time is not as simple an answer as it seems. For young infant it’s really not functional and so many don’t like it. They can gain the same skills when held. They work on their head control, their trunks have balance reactions to movements imposed on them and they naturally push with their arms. As babies get older then tummy time becomes more functional and that same baby that was held will be able to play on their bellies and develop crawling skills naturally despite not having much direct practice. Lying on their backs while awake on the floor can also be worthwhile- they can look and reach, shift their weight side to side, and reach for their knees and feet. The key is variety and having the freedom to move and explore.


    • Hi Joni, thank you for your comment! And I understand what you’re saying about not focusing just on tummy time, and I agree. My post is more geared towards parents who like to hold their kiddos a lot or leave them in exersaucers or other chairs or leave them laying in the crib or on their bed rather than spending time on the floor. I’ve had some patients that say they have no floor space and then let their kids spend lots of time on a cushy bed, which makes it harder to start learning to move from back to tummy or from sitting easily, which is why I encourage sitting more on a firmer surface like the floor.


  6. My response to parents who are completely against letting baby cry in tummy time – “I just cant stand to hear him cry :(” : 1trick to sneaking in tummy time, is to place the child in safe space in prone on the floor only -not changing table- at every diaper change (which is usually every 2hours) for just as long as it takes you to either prep for the diaper change, or to get up &throw the soiled diaper away. This tends to only be 15-30seconds at a time but typically the baby is already mad about being wet,(so why not be mad about tummy time as well) or mom NEEDS to be preoccupied (tossing dirty diaper in the trash real quick) to allow the child to cry, & by the end of the day you will manage to get 4-6minutes of tummy time in. Eventually, you add a toy to distract to push from 30sec to 45 to 60. Soon enough baby rolls over & is makin moves!


    • Lucy: I’m wondering if you’re a mom. I don’t mean to get personal, but my guess is that you’re not. Your opinions might change a great deal when you are.

      What’s the point of putting a baby in a position that makes them cry? Are they learning when they’re screaming? Most babies don’t cry about being wet. There’s a good chance baby is really hungry at that point in the routine and diaper change is quick before feeding. They can develop the same skills in different ways ie pushing on moms chest while fave to face or even being carried on moms shoulder. Once they’re a tiny bit older they’re not going to cry because they’ll be able to play ther. Plus they’ll be rolling onto their bellies from back. At that point they can play with toys on their bellies and you’ve skipped the needless tears.


      • Joni: I’m wondering if you’re a mom. I don’t mean to get personal, but my guess is that you’re not. Your opinions may change a great deal when you are, especially when your child ends up in a crash helmet for her plagiocephaly and you find yourself reenacting the electrocution scenes from Frankenweenie as a means of addressing her severe hypotonia.

        Most babies don’t cry about being wet, but there’s a good chance baby is REALLY going to cry when you electrocute her. They can develop the same skills in different ways, i.e. engaging in regular tummy time and being encouraged to reach for and/or retrieve their own age-appropriate toys.

        Best of luck, and I suggest you bookmark this blog for the future, just in case you’re in need of any further advice on pediatric physical therapy.


        • As a fellow expert in the field of pediatric physical therapy I will certainly come back again. I enjoy Natalie’s posts and enjoy discussing these topics.

          I’m not sure why babies, even those with low tone, would be electrocuted? I’m not familiar with than form of therapy and it shouldn’t be permitted.

          My daughters have beautiful round heads and age appropriate motor skills. Thanks for your concern. If you read my first comment I am talking about the need for distinctions in our “do more tummy time” recommendations. 5 minutes a day a round skull does not make.


  7. My 18 week old can roll back to tummy fine always had tummy time. My problem is he does not like putting his head on the floor. He panicks. . His neck obviously gets tired and he will face plant the floor and never turn head so he can lay…. from 2 weeks he was lifting his head what can I do?


    • I have The same situation. My 7 months old baby turns back and forth on bed / soft surfaces but he doesnt like (of course!! ) when he crashes his face on the floor. What should we do? He loves tummy time but when he is tired he just let his head falls to front. Is that normal too??Thanks!


  8. My son is 4 months old and has had good neck strength from the off…
    He has always had tummy time. But he has learnt back to front rolling 3 weeks ago. My problem is he won’t lay his head down when on his tummy. He gets in a right panic when his neck gets tired. And face plants the floor then panics cause he can’t breathe I’ve tried guiding his head. But he just hates it. He isn’t a very cuddly baby never been one to lean into me. Even in womb. 9r in his baby sling he leans back… is there a way I can teach him to lay his head on floor


    • Hi, thanks for reading my blog. Glad to hear your son is tolerating tummy time ok. I would recommend trying tummy time on a variety of surfaces so he can get used to letting his head go down. The best one to try is tummy time on an exercise ball. I would angle the ball so he isn’t looking straight down, and put him more at a 45 degree angle and see if he still panics if he lays his head down on the ball. A ball is a good strategy because it isn’t completely flat, so hopefully he won’t get scared that he can’t breathe. I would also try him on his tummy on your chest with you sitting up slightly and see if he can rest his head on your chest. Another option is tummy time over a boppy pillow or rolled towel under his arms, or on a couch cushion on the floor. These will allow his head to be off the floor so that when his head does go down, it won’t be right in the floor and hopefully he will get used to turning. If you do tummy time right on the floor and he isn’t turning his head to the side when he rests his head on the floor, I would put interesting toys to his right and left and not put any directly in front of him, that way he is encouraged to look to the side even when he is tired and resting his head on the floor.

      let me know if any of these work or if you have more questions, and I can try to come up with some more strategies for you! refer to this post for some photos :


  9. Hi,
    My son will be five months in less than 2 weeks. He was born 2 weeks early (c-section). At 3.5 months, he could roll from his back to his tummy going over on his left. He loves tummy time and can easily do 30 minutes sessions, keeping his head up and reaching out and grabbing toys. We do this a few times a day, so he gets lots of tummy time. He still hasn’t rolled from his tummy to his back nor can he roll from his back to his tummy on his right side. He sits independently for up to a minute at times. Should I look into an OT for him? My daughter was rolling both ways by 3 months and was crawling at 5 months, so he seems quite far behind compared to her. I’ve watched lots of videos on teaching kids to roll, but they don’t seem to be helping. I’d appreciate any advice. Thank you 🙂


    • Hi Laura, sorry for my delayed reply. Thank you for visiting my blog! Are there any new developments with your son in these last 2 weeks. I wouldn’t be too concerned about not rolling tummy to back yet as long as he is turning his head appropriately on his tummy so he can breathe if he is resting on his tummy. I don’t think he needs a PT referral just yet since he’s still in the appropriate range for rolling which is 4-5 months, and sitting independently is around 6 months, and crawling is between 6-8 months. One strategy you can use to help him roll from tummy to back is to have him lie on his tummy with a folded towel wedged under half his body length-wise, which will put him at a slight angle. This way he will be halfway on his tummy to make it a little easier to roll to his back, and then you can gradually decrease the height of that wedge. Remember to supervise him the whole time he is lying on his tummy. Let me know if that helps and if you have any other questions! Thank you!


      • Hi Natalie,
        Thank you for taking the time to reply to my question 🙂 Your suggestion for using a towel as a wedge worked very well. I did it once, and my son was able to roll independently during his next tummy time session! He is now rolling both ways and sitting independently for over 20 minutes, so I think he’s where he needs to be now. I really appreciate your reply. It made me calm down and stop worrying so much.
        All the best,


  10. “your child’s balance will not magically improve if they’re never put in the position to practice sitting balance- ie they will not learn to sit by themselves if you’re always holding them in your lap”

    Our 6 month old, 9kg son is happy on his tummy. But my wife refuses to let anyone put him in an upright sitting position. “He’s not allowed to sit until he can sit himself up, otherwise you’ll destroy his spine.” No sitting on someone’s knee, even for a minute for a photo.

    He spends some time looking over shoulders, but he’s otherwise always on his back, his tummy (which he prefers) or in a reclined baby bouncer which gets him up to about 20 degrees from horizontal (she got upset when I bent the bouncer’s legs into a slightly higher angle). He’s fed while reclining.

    We were given a Jolly Jumper, but my wife was in tears when I tried to put him in it, just yesterday, at 6 months 2 weeks of age, even though it says it is suitable for 3+ months.

    Is there something I’m missing? Something she (and everyone else) knows that I don’t?


    • Hi Bob, thank you for commenting on my site. Yes you are ok with sitting your child up and supporting them at their trunk to start to work on sitting. Your child is prepared to be placed in a sitting position if they show they have good head control and neck strength and can hold their head centrally and steady without support. Since your son likes tummy time, I am assuming that he has good head control and neck strength. If your son is able to push up onto his arms in sitting then that also shows he has sufficient back strength to try to maintain sitting with someone supporting him at his trunk. Sitting indepenently will develop before a child is able to transition from tummy to sitting by themselves. Transitioning from the floor to a sitting position is a more complex activity and will come after your child is able to sit independently.

      So I would recommend that yes you need to start practicing sitting with support around your son’s trunk. Not only will practice increase the strength in his postural muscles that are required for sitting. But more importantly, being placed in a sitting position will help him develop the balance strategies he needs to sit independently. if he is never placed in a sitting position, then he will not get the practice to develop that balance to sit. You can practice sitting on your lap with you holding him around his trunk, or you can sit him on the floor with support around his trunk, or sitting in an upright position leaning against pillows.

      Here is an excerpt from a page about gross motor skills to help explain why your son needs to practice – the key is PRACTICE- that is how one will learn a skill. The same goes for the fact that your son would not have learned how to move on his tummy if he was never on his tummy. (link is below).

      please let me know if you have any questions, and hope this helps!

      “Gross motor skills development is governed by two principles that also control physical growth. Head to toe development refers to the way the upper parts of the body develop, beginning with the head, before the lower ones. The second principle of development is trunk to extremities. Head control is gained first, followed by the shoulders, upper arms, and hands. Upper body control is developed next, followed by the hips, pelvis, and legs.

      Encouraging gross motor skills requires a safe, open play space, peers to interact with, and some adult supervision. Promoting the development of gross motor abilities is considerably less complicated than developing fine motor skills. Helping a child succeed in gross motor tasks requires patience and opportunities for a child to practice desired skills. Parents and other persons must understand the child’s level of development before helping him or her master gross motor skills. Children reach developmental milestones at different rates. Pushing a child to perform a task that is impossible due to development status promotes frustration and disappointment. Children should be allowed to acquire motor skills at their own paces.”

      Read more:


  11. I know tummy time is important but I’m wondering if floor time on their back is important too?? If so, how much floor time on back and at the same time avoid plagiocephaly? My dd is 3 months old and has a barely noticeable flat spot on right side due to positional preference at 2 months. The flat spot has since rounded out but I get nervous to have him on his back and currently position him one night on right side and one night on left and try to have him off his back as much as possible. I get nervous to give time on back…any advice?


    • Hi Anna, sorry for the delayed reply! I would say if you are only allowing time on his back when he is sleeping and then keeping him off his back the rest of the time then that should be ok. So any time he is awake I would continue to encourage sitting and tummy time activities.


  12. I have nine kids and have never done tummy time with a single one. I am a holder. Mine all have lovely rounds heads, have crawled and sat and walked at the appropriate times, have had head and neck control within the first few weeks, and have developed perfectly fine. Never say never. 😉



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