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Developing rolling and sitting

Babies learn to roll to grasp for toys that are outside of their reach and to explore their environment.

Why is rolling important in a baby’s development?

Rolling develops the muscles in your baby’s tummy and back, which helps them to gain the strength they need to sit and move between positions. It allows them to explore and gain new experiences, which helps with other areas of development.

It’s important for your baby to spend lots of time every day on the floor playing in different positions. Placing toys just out of your child’s reach around them on the floor will encourage them to try to roll.

Ensure your child isn’t always placed under a baby gym when they’re on the floor, where toys are in easy reach above them. Avoid placing them in any type of seat – including bouncy chairs, push chairs, car seats, door bouncers and baby walkers – for long periods, as this may prevent them from learning how to roll.

How often should I practice rolling with my baby?

Encourage your baby to roll throughout the day. If you’re moving them from their front to their back, or from their back to their front, help them to roll rather than picking them up and placing them.

Rolling from tummy to back

Babies usually first learn to roll from their tummy to their back by pushing up unevenly on their hands and rolling to one side. It’s really important to place your baby on their tummy to play frequently throughout the day so they have the chance to practice this skill.

Rolling from back to tummy

  • With your baby lying on their back, gain their interest in a toy and then place it to the side of their head
  • Hold the leg on the opposite side of the toy at the knee, and slowly bring it across their body so they roll onto their side and then onto their tummy towards the toy
  • Do this slowly so your baby can join in with the movement and do some of it for themselves
  • They might need some help to bring their arms out in front if they get trapped underneath them as they roll
  • Sit with your baby on the floor, supporting them around their body
  • Put toys in front of them for them to play with. Babies need to prop themselves up on their hands as they learn to sit. You can help them learn this by placing sturdy toys in front of them to lean on
  • Give them as little support as they need so they use their tummy and back muscles
  • As they improve, you can move your hands from their body to their shoulders or their hips. You might like to sit your baby in a play ring to give them some support. Place toys in or on the ring so they can play

How can I help my baby learn to get from lying to sitting?

  • Start with your child lying on their back. Grasp one hand and bring their arm up towards you across their body
  • They should start to push off the floor with their other hand and help get themselves into a sitting position
  • You can do this throughout the day whenever you want to help your baby move from lying to sitting, so they get regular practice and start to understand how to move position by themselves
  • Avoid holding both their hands to pull them up as this means that they can’t push up for themselves

If they can't roll to either side by around six months, or they can't temporarily hold a sitting position by around nine months, and you’ve tried all of these techniques but you’re still not seeing any improvement after a few months, please speak to your health visitor or GP.

If they can’t get from a lying to a sitting position by twelve months, please speak to your health visitor or GP.