baby playing on their back reaching for toys

Why Floor Play is Important for Babies

If you are like most modern parents, you probably have several devices to put your baby in. From car seats and strollers to swings and bouncers, babies can end up spending quite a bit of time in containers (devices that “contain” them).

This modern way of living is convenient for parents. If you put baby in something that will bounce or swing them, you can give your tired arms a break!

There is nothing wrong with needing (and taking!) a break and it is 100% okay to use containers sometimes. If you are home alone with your baby and you need to cook dinner, sometimes this is the only viable option.

The problem begins when babies like being in these devices and before you know it, they are spending 2-3 hours today in them.

This issue is obviously not applicable to all babies. Many babies (especially in the newborn phase) will not tolerate being apart from you for more than a brief moment!

But if your baby does like spending time in containers, make sure they are used in moderation!

baby playing on their back holding a ball, floor play for babies

Why Floor Play is Important

The more time a baby spends in containers, the less time they are spending on the floor. Containers restrict movement. In order for babies to learn new motor skills, they need freedom of movement.

If a baby is strapped into a swing, they won’t be able to raise their legs up to grasp their feet or to practice rolling over. Floor play is the ideal activity for providing this opportunity.

Overuse of containers also puts babies more at risk for conditions like torticollis (tight neck muscles with a preference to look to one side) and plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome). When a baby is contained, they have less ability to move their head freely in all directions.

Floor play also allows babies to develop their sensory systems. It helps them to gain body awareness and allows them to touch and interact with different surfaces and textures.

Floor Play Set-Up

Setting up a safe space on the floor that is just for your baby is a great idea if you have the space. If you have pets or other young children running around, a designated floor play area can help keep baby safe.

If you have carpet, putting baby on the floor is easy. All you need is a clean blanket and baby is ready to go! If you have hard flooring such as vinyl or wood, it can be a bit more challenging to create a comfortable space.

Puzzle mats are a great option because you can make the area as big or small as you want. A play carpet is another good option and can be rolled up when not in use.

baby crawling on the floor, floor play for babies

If your baby is mobile and needs boundaries or you want to prevent the dog from running over them, a play yard is a nice option. It allows them freedom to move, but within a confined space.

Floor Play Ideas

It is important for baby to practice being in all positions–on their back, on their tummy, and on their side. Floor time is not just for tummy time!

When baby is on their back, a great activity is to provide visual stimulation and toys for them to practice reaching for. Baby gyms are perfect for this! Just make sure the toys hang low enough that baby could actually touch them if they try.

You can even print black and white pattern cards to tape to the baby gym or hang on a string to bring them lower. Check out our free printable of black and white pattern cards on the Free Resources page.

I love baby safe mirrors during tummy time and babies usually love them too! Crawl Along toys that move when baby touches them are a fun option as well. They encourage baby to try to move to follow the toy. You can also try placing several objects around baby in a circle to encourage them to pivot on their tummy.

Most babies can maintain a sidelying position on their own by about 2 months of age. If they need help you can place a pillow or rolled blanket behind their back. To help maintain the position they will need to keep their legs flexed up toward their body and their top arm shifted forward. You can encourage this by placing a toy in front of them that they can try to reach for. Make sure the toy is at or just below eye level. This will encourage them to look downward. If they extend their neck back, they will tend to roll to their back.

Once baby is able to sit well on their own, this is another great position to play in on the floor. If they are very stable, place toys outside of their reach to encourage them to transition positions and go down to their tummy.

baby sitting on the floor playing with toys, floor play for babies

Floor Play Outside

Floor play outside on a blanket is a great sensory experience and can make it more interesting if baby becomes fussy with floor play. Take a blanket in the backyard or to the park and let baby experience floor play in a whole new way!

They can hear sounds like birds chirping and cars driving by and watch the wind blowing through the trees.

baby playing in the grass, floor play for babies

Other Tips for Floor Play

  • Don’t feel like you need to constantly entertain and play with your baby. If they are happy on the floor, it is okay (and even beneficial!) for them to spend a few minutes exploring movement and the environment on their own.
  • Be responsive to baby’s cues. If they become fussy, hold them for a few minutes and then try again. And if they need a longer break, that’s fine too!
  • Floor play can be done for short periods of time frequently throughout the day. Don’t feel like you need to force your baby to stay on the floor for 20 minutes straight!
baby doing tummy time looking in mirror

For other ideas about how to best support newborn development, check out our E-Book The First 12 Weeks: The Best Ways to Support Your New Baby’s Development.

Preventing Flat Head Syndrome

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