Infants change rapidly during the first year of life. Many will develop strong enough abdominal muscles to roll over, sit up, crawl and even walk. There are many activities you can do to encourage abdominal muscle strengthening in an infant. Many routine activities parents do with babies can strengthen baby's abdominal muscles. Activities for improving muscle strength should be fun for your baby.
Tummy time is the most common and simple activity you can do to strengthen your baby's abdominal and back muscles. This exercise requires simply that the baby be placed tummy down on a safe surface, such as the floor, and not a soft bed or area where the baby could fall. This activity can be started as early as the first few weeks of life. A few minutes several times per day is sufficient for gradually increasing muscle strength. Always supervise your baby during tummy time.
Advanced Tummy Time
As an infant ages tummy time can be taken to a more advanced level. You can encourage the baby to raise her head or torso from the floor by using enticing toys. Shake a noisy rattle just out of the baby's eyesight so that she has to move her head or chest in order to see it. You can do this directly above her or off to the right or left side. TheMotorStory.com suggests cylinder toys or other similarly shaped objects meant for babies to rest on with their tummies. These objects can encourage the baby to engage her abdominal muscles in different ways to maintain her balance.
Reaching and Turning
Whether a baby is on his back or tummy you can encourage abdominal strengthening by enticing him to reach or turn from side to side. Reaching and twisting can be encouraged by using a favorite toy. You can place the toy slightly out of reach to get the baby to work hard to grasp it. When the baby starts trying to roll over from tummy to back or back to tummy you can give him a little nudge to help him complete the task. This will lead the baby to feel rewarded for his efforts making him want to try rolling over more frequently. Once the baby has learned to sit up either assisted or alone you can use toys just out of the baby's reach to further strengthen his abdominal muscles.
When a baby seems ready, usually around four to five months of age, you can assist her in sitting to encourage her to engage her abdominal muscles. Place a C-shaped pillow or several pillows behind and on the sides of the baby to assist her in sitting. You can also place a hand on the baby's back to help her sit up as she gets stronger.
Crawling is a milestone that a baby will reach sometime between six months of age and a year but every child is different. Encouraging crawling can further strengthen the baby's abdominal muscles. WhattoExpect.com suggests piling pillows slightly to give the baby a more unstable and difficult surface to crawl over. This activity can make the muscles work harder.