We as parents all know about the importance of tummy time for our infants. It helps them develop their neck muscles so they can hold up their heads. Additionally, it helps to build up their overall strength, and has long term benefits. You may not realize this, but the strengths built during tummy time affects your child's handwriting when they're in preschool. Isn't that interesting?
The correlation between the two was discovered through an informal study by Dr. Anne Zachry, chairwoman of the department of occupational therapy at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. While working as an occupational therapist, Zachry noticed that kids with poor handwriting had poor arm and trunk function. She explains to the New York Times that these kids had trouble controlling their shoulders and arms. This realization inspired her to do an informal poll.
After asking parents, she learned that the children with poor handwriting skills did not get tummy time as babies. That plays into why they had trouble with the fine motor skills that are associated with being able to successfully hold a pencil and write. She also notes that these kids didn't really crawl much either. Yes, tummy time even affects how children will crawl. Tummy time helps to develop those core muscles that are integral to being able to hold themselves up to crawl.
Zachry explains that as they get older and therefore more curious, tummy time changes. Babies begin to reach for things (and people) while laying on their tummies, which requires core strength. “They start pushing themselves up to look around, working muscles that are foundational for fine motor skills, and getting a different perceptual experience,” Zachry says. You shouldn't just plop the baby on the floor and then leave them there to just loaf. You have to make it engaging for them. Get down on the floor with them and talk to them, or read a story. Maybe introduce a small toy. Try getting something that hangs to force them to look up and change their point of view.
Not all babies are going to enjoy tummy time. Besides using the above ideas for engagement, you have other options. Zachry suggests laying with the baby in their lap instead of placing them on the bed or the floor. Successful tummy time is all about engagement and exposure to the world around them in addition to strengthening their little bodies.
And when should you start tummy time? Zachry says to start as soon as you bring them home from the hospital. "One good way to start is to lie down on your back and put the baby on your stomach, or on your chest, “eye to eye,” she suggests.