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4 Common Toys That Help Baby Learn to Roll Over

Find out how to use toys you may already own to help your baby build the strength to roll over.

Dr. Alyssa Whitfield, Pediatric Physical Therapist
Date Posted
March 18, 2022

Since you are already researching rolling, you know that time flies with infants! Rolling is an important milestone that sometimes sneaks up on new parents. We have some quick and easy tips that you can incorporate into your baby’s day using products you may already have.

But remember to relax and have some fun with these activities. This is such an exciting time as your baby starts to gain some personality traits (and quirks!) along with their increased mobility. ;) 

Rolling is one of the first highly coordinated movement patterns your baby learns and is a natural progression from tummy time (still need some help with tummy time? Check out this post for tips! ). This milestone starts the conversation and connection between the right and left side of the brain, which is necessary for skills like reading and writing, but also a precursor to crawling!

There are many aspects to rolling; one might think of these as mini-milestones or prerequisites that a baby needs to accomplish in order to work up to rolling. Movement in all positions (belly, back and side-lying) will help develop each of those little skills; visually tracking up and over baby’s shoulder, weight bearing through extended arms while on belly, weight shifting on extended arms and building core strength.

The 4 products and activities to help promote rolling

1. Ankle rattles: Place baby on their back with rattles on ankles or feet! You’re looking for baby to lift and reach for their legs to play.This promotes the core strength necessary to lift both legs up and over to initiate roll.

Baby laying on back playing with socks
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Ankle Rattles

Lamaze Gardenbug Footfinder and Wrist Rattle Set

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2. Nursing pillow: Place baby on their side with their back against the back (longest side) of the Boppy pillow and their favorite toy in front of them. Sidelying play helps bring arms and legs to midline and initiate a roll when the top knee comes over. As they become more interested and engaged in retrieving their toy, you can move it just out of their reach and watch as gravity helps them initiate a roll onto their belly! Don’t forget to play on both of baby’s sides. If you don’t have or don’t want to get a Boppy, you can also use a couch cushion. Important note: Boppy Loungers were recalled in 2021 (different from this nursing pillow).

Nursing pillow with gray leaf cover
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Nursing Pillow

Boppy Nursing Pillow and Positioner

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3. Stacking blocks: Place baby on belly and stack the blocks up tall enough to get their gaze to 90 degrees or more. Try and get their attention to the top block. The higher  baby gazes, the more they weight bear and push through their arms. The next progression is to have them attempt to weight shift and knock the blocks over! The key concept we’re working on here is “Where baby eyes go, the body will follow”. So eventually we want to progress that upward gaze up and over their shoulder, and BOOM a roll!  

Stack of colorful blocks with baby laughing and playing
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Stacking Blocks

Mini Tudou Baby Blocks

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4. Play Gym: The play gym is an all-encompassing toy because it helps to promote all of these mini- milestones in one product. It promotes kicking for core while baby is on their back, weight bearing through extended arms to initiate weight shifting while baby is on their belly and promotes gaze in various directions (including chin tuck while on back) simply from the toy placement hanging above.

Baby laying in play gym interactnig with textured details
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Play Gym

The Play Gym by Lovevery

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PSA: Floor time is important, but parents need breaks

All of these recommendations have the commonality of a baby on the floor. That’s because floor time allows for safe and free movement to practice all of these fun gross motor skills. Containers like bouncers and baby seats don’t actually help your baby learn to sit, but they are still a great tool for you because sometimes we have to shower or sterilize those bottles! Think of containers as alternatives to help safely entertain your baby when you need to get something else done (and THAT’S OKAY).

About the expert: Dr. Alyssa Whitfield is a Pediatric Physical Therapist and entrepreneur. She is the creator and owner of Move to Learn PT; a practice with the intention of promoting gross motor skills from birth to improve and facilitate learning. If you’re looking for more personalized assistance to promote gross motor development through play, Virtual Milestone Consultations are available. www.movetolearnpt.com

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