Physical Therapy

Get Rolling!

January 18, 2023

Little baby receiving osteopathic treatment of head and neck

Rolling is an important milestone because it lays the foundational building blocks for cross body movements, like crawling and walking. Rolling also encourages engagement with their environment and independent play.


Believe it or not, rolling begins with the eyes! Place toys and other items where they can only see/play with when they are on their tummy or back. That way, you are encouraging changing positions to reach what they want. There are a lot of toy recommendations that can help with this. Typically, anything that spins, rattles, or makes music will get their attention. Water mats are also a GREAT toy for helping with rolling and other milestones, and you can get a cheap one here!

The basics

To get your baby rolling, incorporate ‘side lying play’ with tummy time. Side lying easily transitions into teaching rolling. Also try some cross body movements, like hand to opposite foot or reaching for toys on the opposite side to encouraging reaching and strengthen trunk muscles.

Tummy-to-back, back-to-tummy

While your baby is on their tummy, place the motivating object up and behind them. Once you have their attention and they are looking up, encourage rolling by flexing their knee and hip (on the same side). Rolling back-to-tummy is similar, just opposite. Once on their back, lace the toy out of reach or just out of sight and once you have their attention, bring their opposite leg over the other leg. This is a little confusing without a visual, but we offer milestone classes that go into detail on all things rolling, so check out our Facebook page for our next event.

Get creative!

Sometimes babies will have a hard time coordinating their arms when rolling back and forth. When their arm gets stuck under them, try tickling their armpit to remind them to press up on their elbows. You can also encourage your baby to roll on their own by placing them halfway on a water mat or place a rolled towel behind their back.

Your baby skipped rolling

Don’t worry! Rolling is complicated, and if your baby is sitting before they’re rolling, work on cross body movements while sitting. This encourages them to strengthen their trunk muscles that come with rolling. Side sitting is a great way to encourage cross body movement, then having them reach across or with both hands to reach for a toy.


There is a long timeline for rolling since it is such a complex skill, so don’t worry that your baby is behind in their development if they haven’t started rolling yet. Some babies roll from back to stomach at 2 months and some are rolling both ways with hips, trunk and shoulders by 8 months. Each case is different, but the most important thing is that you try! Most babies either don’t like tummy time or prefer to be held rather than be on their back, though it’s hard to see them fuss, let them to try changing positions on their own!