Let’s get rolling!

Let’s get rolling!

By Vani Chetty – Paediatric Physiotherapist

One of the most common questions we get asked is: ‘ How can I help my baby learn to roll?

Your little one might be finding it difficult to roll for a number of reasons, depending on their age, strength, preferred positions or stage of development. You can try some of the following activities to help your little one master this skill, and you’ll be wondering whether life was easier when they stayed in one spot!

1. Tummy time

Tummy time is a wonderful way to develop head control and strength through a little one’s neck and upper body. As your baby gets stronger, you can encourage them to reach for toys placed in front of them, which will help them to learn to shift their weight onto one arm, which is a precursor to being able to roll.

Physio Tip:  Tummy time doesn’t have to be all in one time chunk. If your little one is getting upset, you can try to distract them by lying down next to them or with different toys, but if nothing seems to work, you can try short periods of a few minutes at a time, at regular intervals throughout the day.


2. Kicking legs upwards

Is your little one able to kick their legs in the air? (Yes, not just backwards and forwards, but up in the air, so that the soles of their feet are facing the sky.) This is a helpful skill to train abdominal and leg strength, and for your baby to be able to initiate rolling.

A good time to practise is usually after a nappy change, when your little one has had a chance to stretch and isn’t wearing clothing which is going to restrict their movement. If the temperature allows, give your little one 5-10 minutes ‘pants-off time’ after a nappy change for them to learn to kick their legs up!

Physio Tip:  You can position your baby’s legs with a rolled towel under their knees to give them a boost up (it’s a lot harder to lift your legs all the way from the ground!).  Some fun ways to encourage kicking include: putting colourful socks or rattles on their feet, positioning dangling toys near their feet to kick or tying helium balloons to their feet (they’ll love watching the balloons dance around).


3. Activities to bring hands and feet together when lying on their back

You can help your little one develop an awareness of their hands and feet, and also the middle of their body, by playing games with them that bring these body parts together.

Initially, they may need lots of help, but as they get stronger, you will not need to provide as much assistance and they will be able to hold their feet themselves.

Physio Tip: You can try clapping or tickling games, or clasping their hands to their knees or feet and gently rocking from side to side to a song.


4. Side lying

Playing in side lying is a wonderful way for your baby to use their body and muscles in a different position. It can also make it easier for them to lift their arms and legs, as they don’t have to fight against gravity as much in this position.

Physio Tip: You can use a rolled towel behind your baby’s back and between their legs to make them a bit more comfortable. If your little one is good at wriggling, this may help keep them on their side.


5. Positioning of toys

A great way to motivate your baby to turn their head and body is by enticing them with a fun toy, book, light, mirror or anything else that may motivate them to move in that direction. Try to position the toy at eye level or above, which will help your baby lift and position their head to be able to roll easily.

Physio Tip: If you little one can roll well onto one side, try to position toys to the other side to motivate them to move in both directions.


6. Assisted rolling

One of the best ways to teach your baby to roll … is to practise rolling! Even if your little one doesn’t seem quite ready or interested, you can gently roll them from their back to their tummy (and vice versa) to get them used to the movement. As your baby gets stronger, they will require less help from you and be able to do more of the movement by themself.

Physio Tip: Whenever you can, instead of picking your baby up and positioning them in another position (e.g. from tummy to their back), try rolling them into that position.


Vani Chetty
Paediatric Physiotherapist
Ocean Kids Health

Our Ocean Kids Health team are here to help you and your child thrive!