Sunday, March 6, 2011

Vital Importance of Tummy Time for LEARNING

Are you a parent? Teacher? Homeschooler?


*Note:  If you are a primary grade teacher, please read through to the end! ;)

When my children were little, I thought it almost impossible for them to spend time on their bellies. Why? When I put them in that position, they'd cry. Being a "good parent," I wanted to meet their needs, so I'd pick them up or put them into another position.

In doing so, my children missed a crucial piece of development.

Luckily, circumstances for most of my kids must have been "good enough" for them to grow up without significant deficits. It was only later, in working with another of my children who'd experienced early trauma and loss that I learned about the vital importance of certain early movements. Here, I'll define those early movements as:

  • crawling = scooting about on one's tummy
  • creeping = moving about on hands and knees

For YEARS we took one of my children through hours and hours of creeping and crawling, trying (and succeeding) in creating brain networks that had failed to wire in early life. To my amazement, the media is finally saying what a small body of professionals have been crying in the wilderness for years:

Experts: Lack of 'tummy time' causes developmental delays in children

An excerpt: "The Back to Sleep campaign encouraging parents to place babies to sleep on their backs and the growing popularity of convenient devices like infant car seats, swings, saucers and bouncy seats have led to children not getting enough tummy time. "Extensive time in containers limits movement, which causes problems with development," said Young.

There is growing clinical evidence that it's causing delays in otherwise normal children. "It's affecting motor skills, both fine and gross, and sensory development overall.  The developmental milestones have changed dramatically in 20 years."

I urge you to read the entire article. If your child is still small, give him time to creep and crawl. If she is older and experiencing developmental delays, do some research into the vital importance of early movement. Research is showing that problems with reading, math and other vital educational strands can be linked to wiring issues caused by this lack of early movement. Two programs designed to change neurological wiring that can be done at home  are Suzanne Day's Neurodevelopment Through Movements and Barbara Pheloung's Move to Learn.

P.S. If I was a primary teacher, I would have my entire class spend part of each day on the floor. Barbara Pheloung has a whole series of materials (see, for example, the book School Floors) for teachers to use in the classroom. The movements create the wiring that allow children to read, write, and do math. If the wiring isn't there, it's like trying to build a house without a foundation. A friend of mine who teaches special education is now doing it with great results with the children she sees.

See Related Articles:

Easy Solutions Can Prevent or Reverse Developmental Delays From Lack of 'Tummy Time'
(look for article linked from that page on midline crossing)

Signs & Symptoms
(look at this list...things that can be caused by insufficient movements at various developmental stages)


  1. I read something like this when a friend told me my daughter would have developmental delays because she never learned to crawl. Thank God it wasn't true for K who is showing advanced reading, writing and math skills. My guess is that she always wanted to remain upright because she wanted to see more of the world. The only drawback I now see is that her upper body strength is not as strong as it could be. But her legs are very strong!

  2. I have a friend that adopted children from China that had to do this for a long time with her 5 year old because she never got to do it at the orphanage.

    I never made the connection but my child with autism does read a loud better when he is propped up on his arms while laying on his tummy. Hmmmm. something to think about. Thanks!

  3. Penny...this is something that's being used more and more for kids with autism. Join the Yahoo group NEUROnetwork if you want to explore more.

  4. This is so timely for me. I just attended a seminar on neurodevelopment and am considering having my kids spend time each day crawling and creeping. The specialist who did the seminar said to work up to about 1600 meters a day for an 8 year old. (more if older, less if younger) She goes by distance instead of time. That's a lot! It better work if I'm going to fight my kids to do it! I'm going to check out those links and the books you mention for additional information. Thank you! Thank you!

  5. Interesting. I hadn't really thought about that before, but from my adoption classes I know that interacting with the world makes a huge difference in a child's development.


  6. So interesting...thanks for this post...

  7. Wow! That is super interesting!
    Thanks for the tidbits.


    Thoughts of a Third Grade Teacher


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