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How to Get Your Baby Rolling with the Lay and Play Adventure Mat

Guest Post by Dr. Brita DeStefano, pediatric physical therapist and founder of
Progress Through Play

 As a pediatric physical therapist for over 10 years, I have witnessed just how important it is for babies to learn how to roll. This milestone is a critical building block for all future motor skills including sitting, crawling and walking. I say this not to stress parents out, but instead to empower you to help practice this skill with your little one! How do you do that, you say? Well, I’m glad you asked! Check out 4 ways you can utilize your Lay & Play Adventure Mat to encourage pre-rolling skills while at home or on the go.


Visual tracking is referring to a baby’s ability to follow an object across their field of vision. It is a good marker of baby’s head control (if they are able to look side to side while on their back, on their tummy and then sitting up). Before a baby learns to roll, they must first gain control of their head and we can use their vision to help develop this skill.

The set up: Lay baby down on their back on your adventure mat. Take one of the toys off of the overhead bar and hold it in front of your baby’s face (about 8-10 inches away for newborns-3 months). Slowly, move the toy in an arc to either side as baby follows it with their eyes. If baby loses focus, stop and let them re-orient to the toy. For 3 months and up this can be done in tummy time. And for babies who are sitting you can do it in that position as well.


The often-forgotten position! Our babies are 3-dimensional beings, they need to experience play on all sides of their bodies and that includes on their sides.  Letting baby experience this position early on will make them that much more comfortable when transitioning through it during rolling.

The set up: Lay baby down on your adventure mat on either their left or right side. Make sure their knees are flexed up to help them balance in the position. Take one of the hanging toys off of the bar and hand it to baby or put it at chest level. You want baby’s chin to be tucked and for them to be looking forwards or down at their hands. If baby tends to roll back onto their back, you can use your leg or a pillow along their back to prevent that from happening and help them maintain the sidelying position.


In order for babies to learn to roll from back to tummy, they first need to be able to bring their feet up into the air. Being able to reach for and grab their toes is a sign that baby’s stomach muscles are getting stronger. To get onto their tummies baby will flex their legs up in the air and then roll onto their side before extending their head and legs to get all the way over.

The set up: Lay baby on your adventure mat on their back. Hang a few toys from the overhead bar. Instead of having them reach with their hands, show baby how to kick at the toys with their feet instead. If your little one is struggling to initiate this activity, roll a small blanket or burp cloth and wedge it under their bottom. This helps to make it easier to lift their legs up.


In order to roll from tummy time back, baby must be able to shift their weight over onto one side and support themselves with one arm. This takes a lot of control and strength in baby’s upper body.  We can help work on that ability by having baby reach for a toy with one hand while supporting themselves on the other arm.

The set up: Lay baby down on their back on your adventure mat. Then roll them onto their tummy. Once on their tummy, position the overhead bar with hanging toys slightly in front of baby. Encourage them to reach up to bat at the toys while pushing up with the other arm. 

I hope you feel empowered to go out and practice these activities and support your child in learning to roll. Remember, opportunities to move freely are the best gift you can give your child, so grab your Lay and Play Adventure Mat and get those babies on the floor (or grass, or dirt, or sand!).

If you’re looking to dive in and learn more about how to promote rolling with your little one, or troubleshoot any issues you may be running into, check out my Fundamentals of Rolling Webinar available for streaming on my website.

Woman sitting on a log, aspen trees in background

Dr. Brita DeStefano is a Denver based pediatric physical therapist, mom of 2 and founder of Progress Through Play. She believes that ‘milestones shouldn’t be a mystery’ and that all parents deserve peace of mind about their child’s development. She is passionate about proactive care, promoting developmental wellness, and educating families on their child’s motor milestones. She offers in-home visits, virtual consults, and online courses to help empower parents to connect with their little ones through purposeful play. Connect with Dr. Brita on instagram or facebook to learn more.