Have you noticed your baby is having trouble rolling?
If this is the case, it could be a sign of a developmental delay.
And while it may not seem like a big deal on the surface, rolling is an important gross motor skill and developmental milestone.
After all, it’s the first experience a baby has of moving their entire body independently.
It helps strengthen their muscles, coordination, and balance, and contributes to further sensory development.
If your baby is over 4 months old and having difficulty rolling, we can help with pediatric physical therapy for developmental delays.
We will work with your child to address their struggles with rolling so that they can continue to grow and develop their gross motor skills.
Let’s take a closer look at what rolling is, why it’s important, and how you can help encourage them to start rolling.
Why Is Rolling Important?
Rolling is one of your baby’s first ways to move around and explore the world around them.
Rolling requires both sides of the body to do opposite movements.
This is an important piece of the puzzle to the brain body connection.
It builds a foundation of movement that leads to further developmental milestones in mobility.
This includes gross motor skills like sitting, crawling, reaching, and more.
It allows them to develop their muscle strength, coordination, balance, and posture control.
It also helps strengthen their mind body connection, improve bilateral coordination, and build spatial awareness.
Rolling is also important for sensory development.
It stimulates their vestibular, or inner ear, system, and their visual system.
Rolling allows children to interact with their environment and use their movements to achieve a goal, like moving over to access a toy they’re interested in.
That can help them develop their hand eye coordination as well.
Let’s take a more detailed look at the specific ways of why rolling is important and beneficial to your child’s development.
1. It Helps Them Learn Sensory Motor Integration
Sensory motor integration relates to being able to use our body to perform actions instinctually, without thinking about them.
This includes learning how to move in ways that are balanced and coordinated.
Rolling helps by aiding in the development of two senses.
First is your baby’s vestibular sense, which is their sense of balance and spatial awareness when moving in their environment.
The second is their proprioceptive sense, which is the knowledge of where their different body parts are and how they work together.
Through rolling, your baby can gain an understanding of their space, their relation to the ground and surrounding objects, and how to use their bodies to navigate this space.
This can help develop their other senses as they use them to gather information about the space that they’re exploring.
2. It Helps Them Learn To Move Independently
Once your baby builds enough strength and coordination and successfully learns how to roll, they become free to explore.
Rolling is a significant milestone, since it’s their first experience using their full body to move independently and on purpose.
It strengthens their muscles, especially their trunk muscles and pelvis, which will eventually lead them to sitting up and crawling.
As they get comfortable with rolling, they can start to explore their environment for themselves.
This is driven both by curiosity and by their desire to get to something or see something in particular.
3. Believe It Or Not, It Helps Them Learn Language
Rolling can be beneficial for language development.
Through being curious and wanting to play, children can have meaningful interactions with their environment.
When your baby rolls, it can be seen as a significant milestone because they’re following their needs and interests.
As they explore and seek out what interests them, you can follow along and talk about those objects and label them.
Through these interactions, they will learn about self expression, nonverbal communication, and cause and effect.
The more they roll, the more they learn.
4. It Will Help Them Sleep Better
As babies move more, they learn how to control their bodies better.
They can also apply this when it’s time to sleep.
When they master rolling from back to front and front to back, they’ll be able to change position when they sleep.
This means less crying out in the middle of the night.
This is so that they can get into a more comfortable position when they need to do so, which can lead to better sleep for your baby and in turn, better sleep for you.
5. It Helps Develop Their Crossing The Midline Skill
Rolling can also help further develop other fine motor skills, such as crossing the midline.
Crossing the midline is an important developmental skill that allows children to reach across their bodies with their arms and legs.
It’s a skill that allows your child to perform tasks on opposite sides by crossing their body.
It promotes coordination and communication with their brain and body to work together to accomplish crossing movements.
When your baby begins to roll, they strengthen their muscles as well as their coordination and balance.
As they roll and develop these skills, it will contribute to them further developing other skills, like crossing the midline.
Crossing midline and moving the two sides of the body separately are an important skill for crawling.
When Should Your Baby Start To Roll?
The first time babies roll, it’s often by accident.
Babies typically begin to roll from their fronts to their backs at about four months old.
After spending weeks on their fronts and strengthening their muscles, they begin leaning from side to side and roll.
They usually perfect rolling from front and back at roughly five months old.
This milestone is an estimate, however.
All babies develop differently at their own times, but if your baby is not attempting to roll intentionally by five months, it might be time to seek help from a physical therapist.
If you’re concerned your baby isn’t rolling when they should and that they may have a developmental delay, we can help.
How Can You Encourage Your Baby To Start Rolling?
If you want to encourage your baby to start rolling, you can incorporate different strategies into their play.
Play should include tummy time play, which is when your baby is on their tummy.
They will be more motivated to roll when they want to go explore something or get to something interesting.
To encourage this, please toys in front and off to the side, just outside of their reach, when your baby is on their tummy. This will encourage weight shifting which is the first step in rolling.
At first you can help roll your baby with slow movements so that their body can feel the motion.
Make sure to tuck their arm on the side you are rolling towards under them so it doesn’t get stuck.
You want them to learn by themselves, but you don’t want to leave them feeling stuck or frustrated.
Let’s take a closer look at some specific strategies that can help encourage your baby to start rolling.
1. Lay Them On Their Side
One strategy to encourage them to start rolling is by laying them on their sides.
Place a rolled up towel or blanket behind their backs to help support them.
Then place something that they find interesting, like a toy or picture book, in front of them along their line of sight.
This will encourage them to reach for it which encourages them to cross midline and eventually roll over as they reach or begin to move toward that item of interest.
2. Dangle A Toy Over Their Head
When your baby is on their back, shake a rattle or a favorite toy over their chest until they start to reach for it.
Now that you have their attention, move the toy across their body in an arc motion across their body.
The next step is to place the toy at a 45 degree angle from their head.
They should be able to look up to see it, but not be able to reach it with the arm on that side of their body.
This will encourage them to reach across their body with their opposite arm and to roll to retrieve the toy.
You can help them roll by crossing their opposite leg across their body and assisting the roll at their hips.
Once they roll over, remember to help them untuck their arms so that they can play with their toys that they worked so hard to get to.
3. Bring Their Feet To Their Hands
Children often will roll back to belly the first time when playing with their feet.
This position strengthens core muscles and allows them to build momentum when rocking side to side.
To encourage this, you can rock your baby’s feet up to their hands and place their hands on their feet so that they can start exploring.
With practice, they will be able to complete this motion independently.
4. Visual Tracking
When your baby is on their tummy, use a toy to grab their attention.
Once their visual field is locked on it, bring that toy across their visual field, in front of them, and then over a shoulder so that they need to rotate to still see it.
This will encourage weight shifting, which they’ll eventually need in order to learn how to roll over.
Book Your Appointment With Little Feet Pediatric Therapy Today
Are you concerned that your baby is having problems rolling and may have a developmental delay?
If that’s the case, we’re here to help.
► 3535 Randolph Rd, Charlotte, NC 28211
► 1331 H St NW Ste 200, Washington, DC 20005
► St. Louis, MO
► Raleigh, NC
Founded in 2019, Little Feet Therapy offers on site pediatric physical and occupational therapy treatments for children from 2 months to 18 years old with physical and developmental concerns. Our clinics focus on providing therapy in a child’s natural setting where your child is in familiar surroundings, it puts their mind at ease and helps them focus more on the work they’re doing with their pediatric therapist. Our therapists will work with your child at your home, at school, at daycare, or another place in the community where they feel most comfortable.