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Moving the Toy to Gain a New Skill

If you know anything about me as a physical therapist, one of my most famous phrases is "it's not about the toy, it's about where you put it". This couldn't be more true to learn gross motor skills. Sometimes moving a toy 2 inches from where it was makes ALL the difference in a response from our littles. I have compiled a collection of the most common gross motor skills parents try to help with at home, and how changing up the toy placement can help your little one learn the skill!


Rolling is a skill that can happen between 3-6 months of age. This skill requires a lot of coordination, strength and motor planning. Usually as parents and caregivers, we try to encourage our little ones to roll by putting a toy to the baby's side outside of their reach. Instead of this, try to put it at a diagonal above baby's head. Because babies follow what their head is doing, this requires the head to rotate AND lift. It also puts the reaching arm in a more optimal position for rolling.

Tummy Time

Tummy time encourages head, neck and core strength in our babes. Often times to get our babies engaged, we put a toy in front of them. To turn it up a notch, try putting his/her toys in an arc around baby. For newborn-4 months, it encourages head rotation and weightshifting, and in older infants, it encourages reaching, pivoting, and rolling.


Is your baby learning to sit? Sitting takes a TON of core strength. Caregivers usually like to place a toy on the floor in front of baby to occupy them in sitting, but try to put it on a box or stool next time. This brings baby's eyes and hands up and improves posture. This is especially good for kids with low tone that may be slouching in sitting. This position will bring them more upright.


After babe starts sitting, they may try to get in and out of sitting. To go from sitting to belly and vice versa, your little one needs to learn to side sit first. It is almost impossible for babe to transition straight through the middle in sitting, which is why side sitting is so beneficial. Try to put that toy at either 10 o clock or 2 o clock to encourage them to transition through the side sitting position.


Pulling to stand is a skill that happens around 9-10 months of age. We can help with this skill just by changing up the enviroment and where we put toys! It is important to have some toys within baby's reach, but try to also put some up high to encourage pull to stand.

We like to make things easy for our babies and help them when they need it. This is just our nature as humans! But try some of these more challenging toy placement ideas, and you may be surprised what new skills your child picks up!

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