10 Tummy Time Toys to Keep Babies Happy

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Before I had kids, “tummy time” just sounded like another cute, albeit infantilized way of babbling with a baby on the floor, in footie pajamas. Now, having lived through tummy time with a son and a daughter, I completely understand its merit. Since babies spend so much time sleeping in their early days, and on their backs nonetheless, to heed the Safe Sleep recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) through their first birthdays, an offsetting period of tummy time every day is needed to ensure development milestones are met and without much delay.

“The strength built through tummy time practice and positioning lays the groundwork for a huge number of developmental skills (from gross motor skills like crawling, standing, and walking, to fine motor skills like grasping, self-feeding, and writing),” says Ashley Scully, pediatric occupational therapist. “This position also provides our babies with key sensory input to the vestibular, tactile and proprioceptive systems, and plays a role in their visual development.”

It’s important to remember, though, that it’s a process to get newborns to stomach tummy time for long stretches, Scully tells us. “Try not to get frustrated if your baby only tolerates the position for a short while at first, because tummy time is HARD! It’s OK if your baby only performs tummy time for 30 seconds. Short, positive experiences are much better than long, negative ones,” she says. “With time and repeat positive experiences, your baby’s endurance will grow naturally.”

So, when’s the best time to start tummy time, and where should the magic happen?

Believe or not, tummy time can start as soon your baby is born and throughout your post-delivery hospital stay. Skin-to-skin contact, with baby lying on you or your partner’s chest is truly your newborn’s first experience with tummy time. While it’s much less active than what you’ll be doing in a few weeks and months’ time, Scully shares that it’s still a perfect opportunity to bond with your little one, establish easy engagement and interaction and limit the amount of direct pressure on your infant’s umbilical cord. Additionally, beginning these exercises and using this positioning early on will help elicit positive responses from your baby in the future.

Once you bring your baby home, then it’s all about finding a routine and a rhythm that works for you. Babies need to adjust to the tummy time position before they feel safe and comfortable with the potential for face-planting, so it’s smart to choose a place and time that allows you to incorporate the activity throughout your day. Whether it’s rolling her over on the changing table following a diaper change (#doubledoody, right?) or laying her across your lap—over raised knees—after each feeding session (you can actually burp this way too!), with your careful supervision and fluidity from one task to another, your baby will start anticipating tummy time and maybe even look forward to it.

But what can you do to tame tears and keep your mini motivated?

Going back to that earlier point about shorter sessions that end in smiles, if you find that your baby is particularly frustrated or fighting being belly-down, then stop and go back to it later. After all, maintaining positive associations with tummy time is truly the key to continuity and progress, as are incentives and interactive playmates, encourages Scully.

“Parents, siblings, even pets can provide excellent stimulation and be a huge motivator during tummy time! Siblings also may be more willing (and able, when considering a postpartum mama…) to get down on the floor and provide some quality face-to-face time,” she says. “Babies are innately drawn to look at faces and research suggests that parent engagement improves infant outcomes during tummy time (i.e., more head lifting and decreased crying). So don’t be afraid to get down on the floor and make silly faces and sounds to entertain your baby.”

If that doesn’t work, keep them hungry for tummy time with thoughtful, attention-grabbing toys.

We asked Ashley Scully, OTR/L (occupational therapist, registered and licensed) to weigh in on the toy categories that essentially provide the best carrots on a stick for your little bunnies. Here are her favorite playthings to make tummy time a lot more fun…and a whole lot less torturous.


The pro take: “A mirror is one of my all-time favorite tummy time toys. Newborns are drawn to its reflective properties and older babies love to study their own faces!”

tummy time toys for babies mirror

1. Sassy Tummy Time Floor Mirror

Ages: 0+

Why we love it: As simple as this soft floor mirror is, it has a lot going for it. Unlike older children and adults who have seen themselves in the mirror hundreds if not thousands of times, babies are discovering their faces—and the human face at large—for the first time. They’ll be blown away by their reflection and the baby talking back to them [as they babble], not to mention the sweet 3D ladybug and bee will provide ample opportunities for them to reach, pull, squeeze, and squish while honing their visual perception.

Toys That Are Easy To Grasp

The pro take: “These are perfect for working on toy exploration during tummy time and early reaching skills. Think toys that are lightweight and easy for small fingers to get around or inside. Ring-shaped toys and links are great, too.”

tummy time toys for babies chewbeads
Buy Buy Baby

2. Bright Starts Oball Rattle

Ages: 0-3

Why we love it: Truth be told, when my son was a baby, I couldn’t get my hands off of these rattles (and we had them in several shake and rattler renditions). It’s particularly lightweight and I found that as my guy was just starting to reach for things, it was the first blip on his radar. Scully adds that a baby can find enjoyment playing with this orb in any position—on their back, sitting up and, obviously, during tummy time. “The multiple holes on the Oball also provide a great oral-motor workout as your baby mouths the ball and experiments with sticking their tongue through each opening.”

3. Chewbeads Rainbow Silicone Links

Ages: 0+

Why we love it: If you have a baby that loves to keep their hands occupied while nursing or taking a bottle, Chewbeads are your jam. We’re huge fans of the soft rainbow colors, and the soft smooth silicone, with its beaded texture, provides a velvety feel for your little grabber (chunkier, too, than the simple thin plastic rings you see everywhere). You can link these on your play gyms, string them together for your baby to hold, twist, and mouth or lay them out and have your baby reach for them. As your guy or girl gets stronger, you can put some of their smaller soft plush toys through the rings and have them do a little tug of war maneuvering to bring their lovey over.

Toys with different textures and shapes

The pro take: “Babies learn about the world around them through their senses, of course. Toys that provide our babies with opportunities to explore different shapes, textures and sounds are the perfect addition to tummy time!”

tummy time toys for babies moulin roty

4. Moulin Roty Josephine Activity Toy

Ages: 0+

Why we love it: Stuffed animals are a nursery staple, but for tummy time, it’s good to have one or two next-level versions available: multisensory play features FTW. The Velcro up top allows you to bring this whale anywhere you want, whether you want to attach it to your playgym, fasten it to your cuddler’s crib, or keep it tucked in your diaper bag for tummy time on-the-go. And once your baby starts reaching on their tummy, secure the toy on an elevated surface and have them reach higher. The stakes will be a little higher (quite literally), but with the three rattling fish, mirror under the whale’s flipper, and crinkling feathers, this sea creature has more than enough wonder blubber to keep your curious calf interested.

Stacking cups or blocks

The pro take: “Stacking cups or blocks are perfect toys for babies who are beginning to reach on their tummy. By reaching up high to knock these toys over, our babies are working on core and shoulder strengthening and practicing weight-shifts required for rolling.”

tummy time toys for babies stacking cups

5. Mushie 8-Piece Stacking Cups Toy

Ages: 0-3

Why we love it: Build the towers up and let your Gerber-cute godzilla take them down - doing so, as Scully mentioned, will work out their core and shoulder strength and encourage their weight shifting, which is a great first step for rolling. Stacking also has an impact on your baby’s brain development, beginning at six months; so, while your baby is on their tummy or sitting up, demonstrate to them how you can stack, nest or separate each cup and spread them out. This fine motor skill repetition can begin setting your sidekick up for more complex things, like holding a crayon or marker.

Toys With High Color Contrast / Black And White Patterns

The pro take: “Newborns are most visually attracted to black and white, high-contrast patterns. Black and white fold out books or cards are an excellent representation of this and can be spread out across the play space to easily stimulate your baby, visually, during tummy time.”

tummy time toys for babies sensory cards

6. Nature Friends Baby Activity Mat

Ages: 0+

Why we love it: Once you get past strollers and car seat systems, play mats, yards, and soft activity gyms are the next big thing you’ll want to add to your list - and it’s dizzying just just how many there are to choose from. This free-range leaf one struck us as unique, because instead of features that hang or dangle from above, these 3D features are built right into/onto the mat, which was made especially for tummy time. There are bugs, birds, butterflies, and a myriad of other friendly, high-contrast things for your little caterpillar to find. Just remember to keep close watch as your tenderfoot explorer surveys the scene (to prevent suffocation or smothering hazards).

Buy It ($129)

7. Wee Gallery Friendly Faces on the Farm

Ages: 0-3

Why we love it: Cultivating a love for reading in babies doesn’t just begin with board books and finger puppet peekaboo pages, it can start even earlier: in tummy time. This accordion-style soft cloth book appeals to a baby’s affinity for black and white visuals with storybook animals that are chunky and easy to focus on. It can be spread out page by page (by a willing caretaker) to encourage an infant to move their head and track each animal’s arrival. Best part? It’s machine washable and etched with simple, one-syllable animal sounds. Tummy time today, Old McDonald tomorrow…

8. MakeMyDayStationery Monochrome High Contrast Baby Sensory Flash Cards

Ages: 0+

Why we love it: The best toys for tummy time aren’t always black and white…or are they? We’re smitten with this pack of 60 handmade high-contrast flash cards, which feature whimsical, gender-neutral designs from rainbows and rocket ships to pears and pineapples. Great to fan out in front of your baby when they’re lying on the floor or hold in your hand (about 8-10 inches from their face, advises Scully) if they’re lying across your lap after lunch. You can form a “tracking” train with a number of cards next to each other at first, and then spread them farther apart and have your growing baby zone in on each design in greater detail.

Toys with movement or gentle sound

The pro take: “These toys are great for engaging a baby’s visual attention early on and can be excellent catalysts for head lifting and turning during tummy time. Just a caution to avoid toys with loud sounds in the newborn stage, as this can overstimulate some babies.”

tummy time toys for babies rattle

9. Sophie la Girafe Sophie Soft Maracas Rattle

Ages: 0+

Why we love it: Following the ‘easy to grasp’ guidance, this rainmaker-style rattle is also easy-grip for tiny hands to hold and a great tactile toy for sensory development. The colors are bright and engaging (red being one of the first colors a baby sees, says Scully) and the multicolored balls inside provide wonderful auditory feedback for your baby as they begin to shake and manipulate it. The ball made of baby paper on the end also produces crunchy, crisp sounds your own mini giraffe will be excited by with each squeeze. Until your infant gets the hang of it, it’s a fun activity to do together. Simply shake or turn the wand over or scratch and squish the ball, letting your baby move their head and neck to follow the sounds, and then gradually move around their play perimeter.

Tummy time water mat

The pro take: “A tummy time water mat provides a lot of different play opportunities: it can be used with younger babies for visual engagement when placed in front of them, and in older babies to increase strengthening opportunities when a baby is placed onto its uneven surface. A water mat is an excellent motivator for babies to push their hands into and challenge their core strength. As with all tummy time activities, though, use with supervision.”

tummy time toys for babies water mat

10. Magifire Tummy Time Baby Water Mat

Ages: 3 Months+

Why we love it: Baby might not be ready to go scuba diving or boogie boarding just yet, but with this 100% leak-proof water play mat, they’ll still feel like they’re sea-ing it all. The engaging graphics and the moving fish provide a windfall (or should we say waterfall?) of sensory stimulation as well as a fun social romp with mom and dad, brother or sister. Whenever your baby presses on one of the swimming squad members, have your older child yell out the animal’s name. After all, it’s never too early to get those language skills going. And though your baby won’t get wet, if they show a lot of promise here, maybe swim lessons aren’t too far in your future.

One final thought

Although tummy time is recommended for babies up to 12 months old, there’s certainly no reason to go belly up after that. According to Scully, tummy time doesn’t stop as much as it morphs into something new. “Once our babies are able to roll to their tummy independently and become efficient in reaching, pivoting, army crawling, etc., they often begin to prefer this position. Babies at this stage roll from their back to their belly when placed on the floor because it is simply more fun. Most importantly, don’t stop placing your babies flat on the floor once they can sit on their own; there are still so many skills to be learned through the strengthening and sensory experiences that tummy time provides. For example, transitioning into and out of sitting, transitioning to all 4s, crawling, etc.”