Fit for the Brain: Buy this, Not that! – The best mat for tummy time

Coach John Wooden, former head basketball coach at UCLA, won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period, including a record seven in a row. Coach was fond of saying that it’s the little details that are vital to creating success on the court and in life. His wisdom also applies to the development of young children. I’ve got a little details tip for you today that can make all the difference in getting your little one’s mobility off and running… or should I say crawling? Assuming that the brain is functioning well, every newborn baby is an athlete in the making. The mobility pathway that eventually leads to elite physical performance begins at birth and what happens in the first year of life is critically important. I have written about this in a couple previous articles – Mobility – the Key to Brain Development and Olympic Performance and Brain Development.

In the early months of life the main mobility objective is to develop good head and trunk control and for your baby to become comfortable with being in the prone position (on the tummy). But the grand prize is crawling on the tummy for transportation. And this is where paying attention to little details can make a huge difference.

Crawling on the tummy is difficult work! Your baby has to move across the floor with the entire torso in full contact with the surface. Naturally, this causes a lot of friction, thus making movement more difficult. To the extent we can reduce friction, we can make crawling easier. Try crawling on a plush carpet compared to a linoleum floor and you will see what I mean. So, what to do?

[callout title=Little Details]“It’s the little details that are vital.                       Little things make big things happen.”           Coach John Wooden[/callout]

The answer lies in the little things. In order to facilitate movement we need to minimize friction with a surface that is smooth (like linoleum) and firm, but not hard. We’ve done the research and tried all kinds of surfaces in our work with children who have mobility problems. The best product we have found for them and for little babies is the Tumbl Trak Tumbling Mat. It is smooth, firm (but not hard), colorful, measures 4 ft x 8 ft and folds neatly for storage. The mat comes in two thicknesses, 1-3/8 in or 2 in. For little babies, the thinner mat is perfectly adequate. If you’d like to use the mat for tumbling when your child is older then the 2 in mat is the way to go.


Many parents place their babies on cloth baby gyms or soft foam ABC play mats or tiles. These may be cute and comfortable but they are entirely unnecessary and make movement more difficult, not easier. Cloth baby gyms usually have a mobile overhead so parents tend to place their baby on the back so baby can see the mobile. That’s nice for vision but it interferes with mobility because babies move on the tummy not the back. A cloth baby gym is fine when your baby needs a break from tummy time and you can also use it in conjunction with the Tumbl Trak Mat to provide an incentive to move forward. Foam ABC play mats or tiles make for a cute room decoration and they cushion falls nicely but they also make movement difficult because they have a rough non-skid texture which creates friction. You have to be careful how you use this equipment. Our advice is don’t waste your money on things your baby doesn’t need especially if they interfere with good brain development.

The Tumbl Trak Tumbling Mat is not cheap. So, think of it as an investment in your child’s future. Nothing influences human brain development and organization more than mobility and how that happens in the first year of life is critical to everything that follows. Your investment will pay huge dividends for years to come.

Let us know how it works for you and feel free to write with questions.

Other related Posts:

Disclaimer: We are in no way affiliated with Tumbl Trak and they do not compensate us for recommending their mat. If you follow the Amazon link in this post we do receive a small portion of the sales via Amazon Affiliates. Any money made from those sales goes directly to supporting the mission of the Reach Family Institute.

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.