Gross Motor Development: Rolling

Posted by

Alicia Amsberry, PT, DPT

Time to read

3 minutes

Rolling is one of the first gross motor milestones a baby achieves. It is a form of independent mobility and an opportunity for your  baby to explore their environment. 

Below are a few tips on how to encourage rolling and what to look for if your baby is not rolling. 


Teaching Rolling – Back to Stomach

When assisting your baby to roll back to stomach, you’ll want to use a toy or something that is motivating for your child to follow with their eyes/head. The main objective is to encourage the use of the baby’s abs (flexor muscles) to assist with rolling, rather than flinging their head or body forward. 

  • Encourage your baby to look either to the right or left to initiate the roll.
  • This will initiate a reach with one arm and bring their shoulder forward. 
  • The baby’s body will follow as well as begin to bring the hip and leg up to complete the roll to their stomach. 

At times the baby may need assistance at the hip to help initiate the roll to their side. This will also help to prevent them from rolling back on to their back. They may also need help getting their arm unstuck when they are on their stomachs. Usually the baby will figure this out, but you can always assist them. 


Teaching Rolling – Stomach to Back

For a baby to learn to roll stomach to back it is important they spend a lot of time on their tummies. This teaches them to push up through their forearms and hands and build muscle strength to weight shift (shift side to side through their arms). 

By using a toy to motivate the baby, they will visually track the toy. As they begin to turn their head, they begin to weight shift to one side. By turning the head even more to one side they begin to roll to their back. 

At first rolling stomach to back can appear as a plopping to their back, or more of a fall to their back. As your baby spends more time on their tummy and practicing their rolling, stomach to back, they movement pattern will become smoother and controlled. 


Important Tips for Promoting Rolling

  • Encourage tummy time throughout the day. 
  • Provide opportunities for rolling to occur through both left and right sides.
  • Use motivating and encouraging toys or objects. 
  • Prop baby on their side with a pillow to promote side-lying and encourage rolling stomach to back. 
  • If your baby has a preference for rolling to one side, block that side to encourage rolling to the other side. 

My Child is Not Rolling Over, Should I Be Concerned?

Rolling typically occurs, anywhere between 3-6 months. Questions to ask yourself if your baby is not yet rolling? 

  • Is your baby participating in tummy time? 
  • Does your baby spend more time on their back than their tummy? 
  • Does your baby spend most of their time in a car seat, bouncer, carrier, bumbo, etc.? 
  • Do you automatically pick up your baby when they begin to fuss during floor or tummy time? 

Typically babies who spend more time on the floor or on their tummy will roll sooner. Tummy time allows for muscle strengthening and movement development for future motor milestones. Oftentimes babies will become frustrated and fussy while on their tummies or when on the floor. It is important to show your baby how they can move (rolling) so that they learn to be independent movers rather than dependent on someone else to pick them up.  

The key to encourage rolling is to find something that motivates or encourages your baby. If they need a little bit of help, provide that support so they are successful. Rolling provides so many different opportunities for independent play; provide the space and time to encourage this form of mobility. 

If you have any questions or you have concerns about your baby please call us. We would be more than happy to assist you.

Photos: pixabay, Canva