Starfish Therapies

March 21, 2010

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

One of the first milestones parents often notice is their kids rolling over.  As exciting as that is there is usually a little frustration involved also because now they just won’t stay still!  You want them on their stomach for tummy time and they roll onto their back, or you are trying to change their diaper and they are trying to roll onto their stomach.  As frustrating as this can be, this is a period of exploration because they can now move on their own, they don’t have to wait for you to pick them up or reposition them.

Because of the Back to Sleep initiative kids are spending less and less time on their tummies.  As a result often times kids may not roll as early as they used to because they are not spending the time on their belly learning how to push up and eventually topple over (this is before it becomes a nice smooth rolling motion).

Often times I am asked how to encourage rolling for kids.  There are several ways.  I’ll break it down into rolling from their back and rolling from their belly.

Whey they are on their back the easiest way I have found is to find a toy or object that they are really interested in and hold it in front of them so that they notice it.  Slowly start to move it towards the side and above their head keeping it just out of their reach.  As long as they are actively following it and reaching for it I will set it down on the ground just above their head.  For instance if I am trying to get them to roll to the right I will move the toy towards the right side of their head and leave it on the ground just above and to the right of their head.  If they lose interest because they can’t reach it I will pick it up and begin again and maybe hold it up and dangle it to maintain their interest.  If they are actively reaching and trying to get to it I will sometimes give them a little boost/push at their hip to complete the roll and let them get the toy.  Make sure you practice to both sides though.  I always find it amusing my kiddos that can roll in one direction and then get stuck because they run into the wall or a couch or something and don’t know how to roll the other way!

If they are on their belly and they hate tummy time, you first have to work with them on their tummy time skills.  Check out Strategies for Tummy Time for some ideas.  Once you get them pushing up on their arms use the toy trick again.  Have something in front of them that they like and if you want them to roll from their belly to their back over their left side, move the toy towards the right and slowly behind them.   Make sure they are still engaged in they toy because if they stop looking they aren’t going to roll.  This is when toys that make noise can be good because it provides not only a visual but an auditory stimulus.  If they are attempting but can’t quite make it give them a little help at their hip.  Usually the first couple of attempts are crashes onto their back until they begin to learn control.  Make sure that you practice to both sides!

The key is to find something that motivates your child, get them engaged and then if they are working hard to make it happen, give them a little help so that they have some success.  Make sure they get their hands on the toy when they roll over so they see that there was a reason for doing it.  Rolling opens up the possibilities for independent exploration for your kiddos so lets get them rolling, rolling, rolling!



  1. […] already addressed rolling in a previous post, as well as if you should be concerned if your child isn’t rolling yet, […]

    Pingback by Encouraging Rolling – From Back to Stomach « Starfish Therapies — February 7, 2012 @ 12:01 pm | Reply

  2. […] this short video and post about how to encourage your baby to roll from back to tummy, plus this general post about encouraging rolling, and another post called “My Child Isn’t Rolling Over: Should I Be […]

    Pingback by 10 tips for helping babies learn to roll - Mama OTMama OT — January 5, 2014 @ 9:37 am | Reply

  3. I’m concerned about my almost 5 month old bc she can’t roll onto her side yet, and when I roll her onto her side, she usually falls onto her back again. I try to encourage her with a toy, but she’s not really reaching for it with the arm farthest away (the arm she needs to use to roll over). If I put her on her side by moving her hips and arms, I can sometimes then get her to roll over. I also noticed that the other hand (on the arm she’s partly laying on) is sometimes in a fist when I’m helping her do the roll. She does roll over from her tummy to her back and actually started doing that around 5 weeks, then stopped doing it as much around 3 months and then started back around 4 months (which I thought was strange). She also just rolls from tummy to back on her right side. I’ve seen her do it on the other side, but it’s not very often. I also don’t know that she’s able to do the horizontal suspension movement. I saw a Pathways video on YouTube that showed typical and a typical 4 month old development, and she seems on track in some ways but not in other ways like sidelying and horizontal suspension. Also, when I try to put her in a sitting position, she sometimes tries to lay back. Should I contact early intervention about these problems, or should I wait? Can you give me advice on whether you think her development is delayed?

    Comment by Julie — August 5, 2015 @ 10:55 pm | Reply

    • Hi, sorry for the delayed response. From listening to your description it probably doesn’t hurt to have early intervention check her out to see if there are true delays. This is the stage where kiddos are developing building blocks for development later down the line. They may be able to give you ideas to work on and then monitor her but its probably better to know early rather than late. I can also send you the ASQ for her age and if you want to send it back I can use that to see if I would recommend further assessment.

      Comment by Starfish Therapies — August 13, 2015 @ 10:59 pm | Reply

  4. My 5 month old can easily roll from back to belly as well as scoot (pre-crawl) on belly (lifts butt up, puts weight on knees and scoots forward). She can also scoot on her back (lift pelvis off ground, feet down and move) however she cannot go from belly to back. How can I encourage this skill and should I be concerned about this given everything I’ve read says usually belly to back comes first?

    Comment by Rebecca — September 27, 2015 @ 8:36 pm | Reply

  5. I have concerns similar to Julie above, except my child is almost 6 months old — when he rolls onto either side, he falls to his back again. I encourage him with toys and he sometimes reaches across his body (more with his right arm to his left side than vice-versa) but he really doesn’t move his hips much; I have to help him get his hips over and sometimes he’ll complete the roll (but many times not). He usually doesn’t stay in sidelying long on his own without something propped behind his back; he rolls to his back fairly quickly. He rolls tummy to back sporadically (both directions) but I’ve only seen it twice where I was sure it was deliberate. He’s a very easygoing baby and is often content to “just chill” on his back and doesn’t seem motivated to reach for toys much beyond his grip, so I wonder if lack of motivation is part of this, but I’m worried about it. I intend to bring it up at his six month appointment, but in your opinion, is this something worth having EI check? I intend on working with him more on my own in these positions, too.

    Comment by Terri — April 7, 2016 @ 5:18 pm | Reply

    • If it’s something that you are worried about then yes, I would get a PT to look at it whether through EI or through insurance. They can either reassure you or hey can give you strategies to help your son. Without seeing your kiddo I would recommend having someone look at him. Hope that helps

      Comment by Starfish Therapies — April 8, 2016 @ 6:33 pm | Reply

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