When Do Babies Roll Over? 6 Subtle Signs To Look Out For!

Author Image By Paula McLaren BA (Hons) Early Years Development & Learning •  Updated: 02/21/23 •  Baby » Baby Development

Knowing when babies roll over will ensure you can help your baby on their developmental journey and set them up to learn how to sit, stand and eventually, walk. Find out when your baby may start rolling over and how to encourage it through play.

When Do Babies Roll Over?

6 Subtle Signs Baby Is Going To Roll Over

So it’s all good to ask when do babies roll over, but what are the signs that your baby may be about to start rolling?

Well, here are the 6 signs that I always look out for that indicate when babies will start to roll:

  1. They are pushing up on their hands and lifting their upper body during tummy time.
  2. They lift one hand in the air while in the above position to reach for a toy.
  3. Baby will begin rolling onto their shoulder when lying on their back.
  4. They will start twisting and rolling one leg over the other when lying on their back.
  5. Baby is regularly rocking from side to side.
  6. They are twisting their upper body one way and their lower body the other.

However, even before you notice these subtle signs, you can help teach your baby how to roll over.

How To Teach A Baby To Roll Over

Your baby’s ability to roll over is a big deal and one of the first major developmental milestones that they will achieve. 

However, it is important that you offer your little one plenty of opportunities to learn and practise their new skill.

Here is the simple technique I use to teach a baby to roll over:

How To Teach A Baby To To Roll Over - NHS Surrey
Image Credit: NHS Children and Family Health Surrey
  1. Start by placing your baby on their back on a soft, flat surface. This will give them plenty of room to move around and explore safely.
  2. Encourage your baby to lift their head and shoulders by placing age-appropriate developmental toys or other objects just out of reach. The looking and reaching actions will help them develop the muscles they need to roll over.
  3. Once the baby is able to lift their head and shoulders, you can try helping them roll over by strategically placing a toy to the side of your baby in preparation for a roll.
  4. Starting on their back, gently bend and bring the leg opposite to the side the toy is on and move it up and across the body to begin a ‘roll’.
  5. As they roll over, gradually straighten their leg and let your little one naturally bring their hands forward and reach for the toy to help them finish the roll.
  6. Allow them to play on their tummy with the toy on then practise moving them back and trying again!
  7. As the baby becomes more comfortable with the motion, you can gradually reduce the amount of support you provide, allowing them to do more of the rolling on their own!

NOTE: If you are a more visual learner, check out Corinne Hagins’ Starfish therapies‘ lovely YouTube video showing this exact technique in practice.

Exercises To Teach Baby To Roll Over

Once you think your baby is showing signs and you are practising the rolling movements, you can also give baby a helping hand by doing the following:

11 Ways to Teach Baby To Roll Over

1. Offer Lots Of Tummy Time

We all know how good tummy time is and it really is great for helping your baby to strengthen their upper body in preparation for rolling over.

Place toys just out of reach to encourage them to reach out and grab. 

Tummy time mirrors are always a good choice and when you want to entice your baby to roll over place the mirror to one side a little out of reach to tempt them to roll and stretch.

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2. Allow Baby To Play On Their Side

Placing your baby on their side with a rolled-up towel or blanket at their back until they can balance alone is a great way to get your baby primed for rolling over.

Place toys in their line of sight but just out of reach to keep them engaged and as they stretch to grab the toy, they will naturally cross their top leg over and one day they will just roll over!


3. Change Positions A Lot

During the day, try to put your baby in different positions to play as time spent on their sides, back and tummy will strengthen all the different muscles needed for rolling over.

4. Encourage Play Across The Midline

Between the ages of 4 and 5 months, teaching your baby to reach across the midline is another good way to get them ready to roll over as this is a skill they need to master before they can roll. 

Activity gyms are great for entertaining your little one and ideal for providing them with tempting opportunities to reach and roll when they are ready.

Place your baby under a play gym with a toy to one side rather than straight above, so they need to reach up and across to touch. 

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5. Engage In Track And Grab Playtime

Lay your baby on their back and hold up an interesting toy for them to look at and then move it across from side to side so they can track it.

Encourage them to reach out – preferably across the midline too.

Use developmental toys that light up, make a noise or have bold patterns and fun textures to keep their interest.

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6. Minimise Time In Equipment

Keep your baby’s time to a minimum with equipment such as baby bouncers and chairs.

As they cannot practice any pre-rolling skills if they are in one of these.

7. Roll Them While Picking Them Up And Putting Them Down

As you pick up and put your baby down, do so in a rolling motion rather than straight up and down.

This can be done from a young age and helps to strengthen the muscles necessary for rolling.

8. Carry Them Around In Different Positions

You can also try carrying your baby in different positions.

Hold them facing forwards or along your arm facing outwards. 

By doing this you will improve your baby’s balance and ability to hold themselves in different positions which in turn will help to encourage them to roll over.

9. Give A Helping Hand

If your baby is getting halfway into a roll but gets stuck, give them a hand!

Helping them to get past that sticking point over and over again will teach them what it actually feels like to roll.

Here’s a really quick video to show you how to give them a helping hand!

10. Make Things Safe

Once your baby is able to roll, they can get across a room very quickly so you need to ensure that where they are playing is safe before they can roll.

Also, never leave your baby on a bed or high surface (even for a few seconds) as you will be surprised how quickly they can move to the edge when they are able to roll.

11. And Finally, Celebrate Their Success!

When your baby finally rolls over, either intentionally or not, make a big fuss!

The more excited you are… The more they will want to repeat it.

TOP TIP: Some babies get a shock the first time they roll over and may cry. This is quite normal and you simply need to comfort them and let them know there is nothing to be scared of. 

Frequently Asked Questions About When Babies Roll Over

Looking for more information about when babies roll over? Here are the answers to the most commonly asked questions.

Which Way Do Babies Roll Over First?

Babies will learn to roll from their tummy to their back first and then from back to tummy later, as this requires more advanced and developed coordination.

When Do Premature Babies Roll Over?

Depending on how premature your baby was, they may develop more slowly. This can mean that they achieve their developmental milestones later than would be expected of a baby born at full term.

This is not a cause for concern as your paediatrician will be aware that baby was premature and as a result, it would not be unusual for a premature baby to roll over later than expected.

REMEMBER: If your baby was premature, they should catch up developmentally by the age of 2.

What To Do If Baby Is Showing No Signs Of Rolling Over?

It is always important to remember that the age at which babies roll over will vary quite significantly from child to child.

A few babies may only roll occasionally, being quite happy to wait until they can sit. Others will be keen to roll immediately!

However, if your baby has not started to roll by 6 months of age and is not showing signs of sitting or bottom shuffling, then you should consult a paediatrician or medical professional.

What Should You Do If Baby Rolls Over In Their Sleep?

This can be a bit of a conundrum for parents, as we all know that babies should be put to sleep on their backs for the first year of life. 

It is important that you do not swaddle a baby that can roll over as you need to allow them to have their arms free to get back onto their backs.

A sleeping bag rather than complicated bedding is ideal for this stage of your baby’s life.

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REMEMBER: When babies are able to roll over, they will also be able to move their heads from side to side and push themselves up to lift their heads to breathe freely. But if you are at all concerned, trust your instincts and contact your paediatrician. 

Do Some Babies Skip Rolling Over?

Yes. A few babies will skip the rolling over stage and go straight to crawling or bum shuffling. 

REMEMBER: As long as your little one is progressing physically and building strength in their upper body there is nothing to be concerned about.

Once Baby Has Learnt To Roll Over, What Are The Next Milestones?

Once your baby has learnt to roll over there are loads of new and exciting milestones to look forward to that will come in sequence as their physical development progresses.

The next to come will be:

Do I Need To Prepare For My Baby Rolling Over?

Yes, you definitely need to prepare yourselves and your house before your child can roll over.

You will be surprised how far and how quickly they can roll into potential trouble.

To create a safe environment cover electric sockets, and remove all dangling items such as cables, curtain cords and tablecloths. Most importantly, never leave your baby on an elevated surface unattended.

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Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren - The founder of Teething to Tantrums has been in the childcare industry as a Norland Nanny and Childcare Expert since 1982. Her qualifications include a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) plus the highly prestigious Norland Diploma, recognized as the best early years practitioner qualification in the world. During her 40+ years of experience, she has worked as a night nanny (specializing in solving sleep issues), run a very successful daycare center in London, and raised almost 100 children, including her son, to be kind, healthy, and happy individuals with her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.

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