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Prone Play

The activity of play is crucial to a child’s physical, emotional, cognitive, and social development. For infants and young children, prone play can create adverse reactions and be difficult for parents to enforce. In addition, many caregivers of children are unaware of prone play recommendations such as duration and types of activities that are beneficial.

Prone play or “tummy time”, is important for infants to engage their arm, shoulder, and neck muscles that are vital for head control, pulling up, and reaching. Prone duration has also been found to correspond with the age children achieve major milestones such as rolling, variations of crawling, and sitting. For older kiddos, prone play can improve core strength, motor coordination, and sensory integration needed for school-based activities and other important activities of daily life.

Some tips that may be beneficial for helping your child tolerate a prone position while playing include:

  • Getting down to eye level and communicate by making faces, singing, and talking

  • Use mirror and colorful toys for engagement or distraction

  • Create a safe and calming environment

Prone play for infants can include:

  • Laying on their tummy while engaging with toys (blocks, peg puzzle pieces, plush toys)

    • Either solitary play or with a caregiver

  • Turning pages of a book while on their belly

  • Crawling!

    • Either on their belly or on all fours

Prone play for older kiddos can include:

  • Moving around a room with a scooter board

    • Using their arms and feet to scoot

    • Holding onto a rope and having someone pull them

  • Army crawling over dynamic surfaces or obstacle or through pop up play tunnels

  • Lying on a stability ball while reaching for items scattered around the room

  • Performing the “Superman” pose on the floor and holding for a couple seconds

Kuo, Y. L., Liao, H. F., Chen, P. C., Hsieh, W. S., & Hwang, A. W. (2008). The influence of wakeful prone positioning on motor development during the early life. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics: JDBP, 29(5), 367–376.

Zachry, A. and Kitzmann, K. (2011). Caregiver awareness of prone play recommendations. American Journal of Occupational Therapy. Vol. 65(1), 101–105.

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