baby rolling with a rattle

One of the most popular questions asked by moms is “How does she learn where to put her arms when learning the motor skill of rolling?”  Recently a mom explained that her daughter sticks her arms straight out to the sides like an airplane and then cries when she rolls.  She asked, “How can I teach her to roll with her arms in a more comfortable place?”  We can learn from our stellar caterpillar Zizu how to master the milestone of rolling by coordinating the arms in a useful way.  


a baby demonstrates the motor milestone of tummy time

First, Zizu mastered the motor skill of lifting the head while in tummy time.  While practicing this skill she learned to bend her elbows and place her hands near her shoulders.  Soon she learned to play with a toy with both hands while in tummy time.  This teaches her to be comfortable with her hands in line with the middle of her body and teaches her to bend her elbows.  The more time she spent playing on her tummy with toys the more familiar she became with the ideal placement of her arms for rolling.  If baby likes to stiffen the arms straight out to the sides like an airplane, gently place the palms of her hands on the floor and slide them while making an interesting sound.  If you can bend her elbow as you move the hand that will be even better for her.  Soon she will figure out the advantage to having her hands on the floor.  She can push the floor and feel the power that it gives her.  This is an important connection for baby arms as it develops the necessary strength for crawling on the hands and knees.


baby holds rattle while in tummy time

Once baby has learned to keep her hands on the floor,  place them near her shoulders, and bend her elbows she is ready to learn the coordination of rolling.  If she holds a rattle while in tummy time you can observe if her elbows are under or in front of her shoulders.  This is important.  Zizu demonstrates this positon very clearly.  Then before you guide her into a roll, cross her arm even more toward the midline.  For example, if you want to roll her toward her right, move her right elbow and arm even more toward her center (in front of the center of her chest).  This puts it out of the way so she can put her head down easily and roll.

Read our post “How To Roll” to see a video of a baby guided through a roll.  In the video, once she rolls onto her stomach her arm stays in the correct position for rolling back onto her back so we do not need to move it in the video, but you can clearly see the placement.  Sometimes it helps if they hold a small rattle since it keeps their arms more toward the center.  Read our post “Motor Milestone of Rolling” to see a step-by-step photo sequence of rolling from the back to the tummy.  The photos show clear placement of the arms.  With a little practice she learns very easily how to move her arms out of her way so she can put her head down and roll.  Learning to coordinate the arms is an important development of a baby.

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