It’s no secret many babies don’t exactly love tummy time.
Yet the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting this important practice as soon as their first day home from the hospital (for healthy babies).
If your kiddo starts screaming the moment you lay them down for this developmentally important activity, it may be time to call in some reinforcements for your child’s development.
In this post, I go over the benefits of tummy time from birth, the best tummy time toys and play mats to make the experience a little more pleasant for your and your little, plus some tips to get started.
- Start tummy time as soon as the first day home from the hospital for healthy babies, beginning with a few minutes at a time, and working up to roughly an hour spent on their tummies by 3 months of age (broken up into multiple sessions per day).
- Use a comfortable mat, such as from Lovevery, Itzy Ritzy, Bright Starts, or Tiny Love to give your baby somewhere safe and comfortable while spending time on their stomach.
- Toys can help keep this activity interesting for your little. A great tummy time mirror is fun for newborn babies, as are wobblers such as those from Lovevery and Hape. Older babies may like more interactive toys, such as the Activity Pillow from Vtech or Light Up Bar from Baby Einstein.
Disclosure: Itzy Ritzy recently reached out and asked if I’d like to try any of their products. I asked them to send me one of their tummy time mats and play gyms. I’ve had my eye on their play gym for some time now, so was happy to be able to check it out for myself. All opinions remain my own.
What it Tummy Time?
Tummy time is an important developmental activity whereby a parent or caregiver places healthy babies on their tummies (as opposed to their backs, which is safest for sleep) for a short amount of time.
It is important you only place your baby on their stomach when they are awake and alert, and that a responsible adult supervises the entire time.
Why is Tummy Time an Essential Part of the Day for Young Babies?
The benefits of tummy time for healthy babies broadly fall into four categories:
- Developing muscle strength. Time spent on their stomach helps your child build their neck and shoulder muscles. This is a critical step towards practicing and mastering multiple developmental milestones. It also helps them develop the strength needed to lift and control their head; develop muscles for rolling over, and pushing up on their hands and knees, and crawling.
- Reducing the chance of developing plagiocephaly and brachycephaly: Tummy sessions are positively correlated with a reduction in flat spots on babies heads, and increased tummy time is sometimes recommended to correct flat spots.
- Improving gross motor skills: Research has found time spent on their stomachs helps babies with reaching and grabbing, controlling their movements, hand-eye coordination, and balance.
- Exploring their environment: It’s a perfect way for your newborn to see things in a new way and start to observe, learn about, and be curious about the world around them (and their own bodies). Many mats and toys include options for tactile exploration, which can further engage your child as they grow and hit more milestones.
Best Tummy Time Mats of the Year
If you’re ready to start tummy time with your newborn, or need some new ideas to keep time on their tummies interesting, I’ve rounded up some of the best tummy time toys and mats, specifically designed to make this activity more fun for your little one.
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Best Tummy Time Toys of the Year
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Tummy Time Mat Reviews
Built around 5 different zones, we love that it comes with a list of suggested ways to use it, ensuring you’re offering your little one plenty of age-appropriate activities to encourage development. We adore that the baby play gym mat is included – and filled with plenty of developmentally appropriate activities designed by child development experts! Priced in the middle of the pack, we think it offers great value, and it tends to have great re-sale value when you're done with it.
The Lovevery mat and play gym is a great buy for tummy time and gym time.
When you’re just starting out, and don’t want to overwhelm or overstimulate your little one, you can close all the “zones” so it looks like a basic baby mat.
When your baby is ready, you can open one flap at a time, or all the flaps at once, to reveal individual activity zones great for tummy work.
The different zones work on different developmental areas, and the Learn to Focus zone can be updated with different black and white or color cards (included) or keep it simple with the mirror.
In addition to being a great option for time on their tummy, this also works as a baby play gym and a cozy fort, making this mat and gym a great bang for buck.
Bringing Itzy Ritzy's signature rainbow whimsy to your home, the company's dedicated tummy time mat or their play gym with detachable toys are a great, compact choice for younger babies and small spaces.
Itzy Ritzy has both dedicated tummy time mats and play gyms with mats to choose from.
While the dedicated tummy mat comes with a small positioning pillow and mirror, I’m partial using the mat and toys from the gym, because you get 2 for the price of 1.
The mat itself has a lot of texture – from the natural cotton, linen like top to the velvety soft ruffles which are fun to inspect.
When your baby is done being on their tummy, you can put the play gym frame back over top the mat to give your little on another way to play.
The adorable Bright Starts mat is in the shape of a friendly bear and this mat has a propped-up head and various attachments to keep the baby busy and learning.
I love the small size of this Bright Starts mat and babies love it too, making it incredibly portable for trips to grandma’s house or over to a friend’s.
There are an array of colors and textures to stimulate your baby’s senses of touch and sight, and it features attached toys to promote reaching and grasping. These motions will help with the development of your baby’s arm, shoulder and back muscles.
The soft toys make crinkling and rattling sounds to keep your little one’s attention, while the soft plush toy materials help keep her stable while she tries to push up.
The dimensions of this mat are 36×32.5×5 inches and it is machine washable for easy cleanup.
If your little one is ready for a whole lot of stimulation, this mat is a great choice. Get ready for hours of interactive play with a multitude of stimulating toys, colors, sounds, and textures for a multi-sensory experience.
This interactive piano gym will give older babies something to love! When they’re on their backs, the hanging toys give them something fun to look at, grab at, or kick at.
When they switch to their fronts, however, is where this play piano gym really shines!
They can work up to hitting the 4 “piano” buttons and the drum button, with the reward of playing different musical notes once they succeed. There are different modes, so you can also get the “piano” to switch to shapes and animals, instead of musical notes.
They can also use the leaf pull tabs to activate different tunes, animals, and shapes sounds.
In short? There’s lots to keep a baby interested and engaged here!
This little mat can be filled with water, setting the sweet characters inside afloat for your little one to try to catch
Your baby will love to pat and push the shapes around in this mat and watch them move.
Made out of BPA-free materials, it’s smaller than some others, making it the perfect size to bring along for a trip to the playground or a friend’s house.
Your baby will want to stay propped up while reaching for the colorful characters, helping them to develop important arm, shoulder core muscles, and neck muscles strength.
When tummy time is over, you can set the mat on the tray of a high chair to keep your little one entertained while you cook dinner.
This mat is super soft, made completely out of plush material and comes in a variety of sweet designs.
Choose from an elephant, a bear, a panda, a lamb or a handful of other cuddly creatures for this mat.
Your little one will be comfortable on the soft, flat belly while reaching for the floppy ears and other engaging features of the characters’ faces.
This mat can easily be stuffed into a bag, stroller or even a stroller travel bag so that you will always have a soft and clean place for your baby to have tummy time.
And with the array of colors and designs, it makes a great baby shower gift.
The whole mat is machine washable and its dimensions are 31x23x5 inches.
Offering extra roomy to encourage mobility, this mat is full of cheerful colors and scenes that will keep your baby interested and occupied for longer tummy-time sessions.
Each square of this generously sized mat has a different graphic with a different scene or character and various textures for sensory development.
It includes an attached mirror to promote focus and a small loop to help your baby practice reaching and grasping while pushing up.
The whole mat can fold up like a blanket but it won’t wrinkle up and gather when your baby is on it, making it perfect for traveling or a day in the park. And it is machine washable for easy cleanup when the drool gets a little out of hand.
It measures 35x59x1 inches.
Tummy Time Toy Reviews
Lovevery's first 3 play kits (The Looker, The Charmer, and the Senser) all come with toys designed to make time on their tummies more fun for your little one. They'll arrive on your doorstep as a one-off or subscription, leaving all the heavy lifting off your shoulders so you can enjoy your baby.
Designed by child development experts, Lovevery’s first 3 Play Kits are chock a block full of toys you can use to make the experience more engaging.
The first play kit – The Looker – is designed for the first 3 months of life. The Standing Card Holder and Black and White Cards, the Wooden Book, the Silicone Rattle with Removable Ball, and the Black and White mittens can all be incorporated into tummy time to switch things up and keep the youngest of babies interested.
Following The Looker, The Charmer Play Kit for 3 and 4 month olds includes more black and white images, a mirror card and framed mirror, a rolling ball with a bell, a soft book, and a wooden rattle – all great tummy time toys!
Finally, The Senser Play Kit for 5 and 6 months olds includes two legendary tummy time toys: the Tummy Time Wobbler (#3 in the picture below) and the Spinning Rainbow (#5 in the picture below).
All of the Lovevery Play Kits also come with a play guide as well, which have suggestions on different ways to play with the toys and your baby to maximize their developmental value.
This simple triangular mirror is just the right height to encourage your little one to prop themselves up in order to reach for the high contrast toys.
This self discovery mirror comes in two different colors and styles – the black/white/grey pictured above, and a cute blue version, which is the one we own.
It comes with a mirror, a rolling tracker ball (bottom right), a crinkle paper bee (top left), and lots of high-contrast images and primary colors to aid your baby’s visual development.
The mirror is large enough to give your baby a good look at themselves, helping them build awareness of self and a sense curiosity. While it’s not a perfect true reflection mirror, it’s pretty good and doesn’t distort the reflection when looking directly at the mirror.
The toy in the bottom right corner (it’s a ladybug on the blue version and a flower on the white version) is a black and white roller ball, which your little one can roll and track the color changes as it moves.
The bee in the top right corner is visually engaging, and will encourage looking and – at some point – trying to grab. The wings are made of crinkle paper, so they make a satisfying crunching noise when your little one does grab it!
The base is just wide enough that the mirror props up like an easel when you’re using it, and you can fold it flat when finished. Ours stays up great.
Overall, this is a great choice for babies who are in the “love looking at themselves in the mirror” stage.
This versatile and clever set comes with three caterpillar-shaped prop pillow sections that can either slide apart into one long caterpillar for tummy time or stack up to offer your baby support in a sitting position once they're ready.
The cute and friendly caterpillar prop pillow is a 2-in-1 system that works to support your baby when they are first able to sit up in the “circle” position (pictured above), and is great for tummy time positioning and fun during tummy time when it’s stretched out like a caterpillar (pictured below).
It’s extremely colorful and high contrast to keep your little one interested, and there are two toys (which detach for repositioning as needed).
There’s a small textured teething silicone teething disc (some versions have a teething ring, rather than a disc) to grab at and mouth.
There’s also a crinkle paper sun to grab at and squish.
cheerful little sun that makes a crinkling sound for auditory stimulation.
The whole set is soft and cuddly. Hand wash only.
The dimensions are 18x6x12 inches.
This soft and cuddly support pillow will allow your baby to comfortably stay on their tummy longer to help them build up the muscles and stamina they will need to start scooting and crawling.
The super-soft pillow sits at just the right height to help your baby prop herself up or even start sliding along with the tummy time pillow.
It has a detachable ring with a rattle and a teether that are perfect for little hands that are just learning to grasp onto things.
The simplicity of the design makes this toy a great option for younger babies – ages 2 months and up, if you want something more basic than what the Prop-a-Pillar has to offer.
Fun, colorful and cuddly, the V-Tech Discovery Pillow grows with baby, starting as a support to help prop them up for tummy time and then helping to stabilize them when they’re learning to sit up.
This u-shaped roll is soft and inviting and comes in the shape of a bright and friendly giraffe. It is the perfect size to encourage your baby to stay propped up and develop the important muscle groups they’ll need for crawling.
It is surrounded by attached toys that promote pushing up, reaching and grasping.
The light-up piano will hold your baby’s attention with sweet, short tunes that help develop auditory awareness.
The light-up piano toy has 3 animal buttons that light up and play different songs and melodies, as well as go over basic numbers, primary colors, and shapes. The giraffe wheel in the top right corner of the piano spins, and makes a satisfying clicking noise as it goes.
Other toys include two animals (a purple hippo mirror and a blue elephant rattle), and a red plush that squeaks when you push it.
The giraffe is the perfect size for traveling, and the toys can be detached for use elsewhere.
Personally, I think this pillow is a bit overwhelming for the youngest babies, and would use this for a 3 to 6 month old, choosing a simpler positioning pillow for a younger baby.
The body of this sweet and silly Fisher Price llama acts as a pillow prop for productive tummy time, while the neck and head of this fisher price stretch upwards to promote pushing up and reaching for arm, shoulder and neck muscles development. Grows into a toddler toy, giving plenty of life out of this purchase!
The friendly llama lays on the floor at the perfect height for babies lying on their stomachs, working to support themselves on their elbows. It comes equipped with a pouch that folds down and serves as a mat with cheerful faces and bright colors.
The detachable toys include a mirror to encourage self-awareness and focus and some teething carrots and a watermelon with different textures and colors to promote sensory development and fine motor skills.
The Llama is light and easy to transport and measures 15×15.4×16.9 inches.
A battery-free toy with a bell in it, the "musical" aspect comes into play when your little one knocks the wobbling penguin over, and activating the bell inside to ring. Lots of fun once your baby has enough strength to reach their arms out to knock it over.
This adorable penguin wobbler has a wood base and a plastic top half, with a bell embedded somewhere within. I think the name “musical” is a bit of a stretch with this toy, as it refers to the sound the bell makes, rather than any sort of electronic music.
That said, I think it’s an awesome wobbler, right up there with the Lovevery version included in The Senser play kit.
Hape is also a well known brand with a history of using child-safe materials, and building toys that last.
This toy is great for promoting tummy time with fun, interactive elements in older babies. It’s also great for to use when your baby is able to sit up independently
This u-shaped toy will dazzle your little one with lights, colors and sounds, encouraging them to reach out, prop up, and smack the buttons to make them work!
It provides some great motivation to develop crucial shoulder and arm strength.
Your baby will also learn cause and effect while simultaneously improving cognitive, auditory and fine motor skills development.
The light bar comes in three different modes: animals, colors and xylophone. It can also be set to English, Spanish or French.
The sweet koala will keep your little one entertained with this propped-up flipbook full of both high-contrast and colorful prints.
The book is made on a triangular frame to keep it stable while your little one reaches for the pages.
The high-contrast black and white prints will help your baby focus visually and develop their eyesight while the various other colors and textures will keep them drawn in.
It comes with a tethered teether that can be tucked into koala’s little pouch to help your baby practice fine motor skills and arm and shoulder muscle development. And the pages are filled with a noisy crinkle material to engage your baby’s auditory development.
This toy is small and incredibly easy to pack into a baby bag, measuring only 7.9×5.9×3.5 inches.
Need to Know & FAQs
How Often Should I Do Tummy Time with my Baby?
For healthy babies, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting tummy time as soon as your baby comes home from the hospital.
They and other experts recommend spending time on tummies daily, breaking it up into bite-sized portions as your baby gets used to it.
Many newborns seem to like tummy time with their tummy positioned on their parents’ chest. Laying back yourself, lie your newborn on your chest a few times throughout the day.
One your baby grows and is out of the newborn stage, you can switch to doing sessions on the floor (on a mat, blanket, etc), introducing a new tummy time toy to keep things interesting.
When making the switch, stick to shorter sessions between three and five minutes, and building up to about an hour per day total by the time they’re three months old.
How Long Should Sessions Last For?
When first getting used to this new feeling, spend only a few minutes. As your child gets used to it, you can extend time spent in the position.
What Should I Do if My Child Hates Tummy Time?
Rule out other sources of discomfort or crying, such as tiredness, hunger, gassiness or a full diaper. It’s best to do tummy time when your baby is awake, fed, and freshly diapered.
If your child isn’t interested or engaged, try introducing a different tummy time toy to re-ignite their interest, or try playing with an existing toy in a new way.
If your child continues to resist this activity or becomes inconsolable, consult a pediatric occupational therapist or your primary care physician.
While many parents dread getting their baby onto their stomach, it doesn’t have to be a difficult activity. Paired with a comfy mat and a few good baby toys to encourage your little one, it can be a fun and developmentally appropriate activity!
If you know a parent who is struggling, we hope you’ll pass this article along!