How to Play with a Wobbly Sitting Baby

Written by Bree Milani, MOTR/L, C/NDT, Occupational Therapist and Founder of Sprout and Thrive

Did you know that there is a progression to how a baby learns to sit and what they can do once they’re there? Technically a baby isn’t “sitting independently” until they can get into and out of sitting on their own. But, most parent’s check the box of “sitting” when their baby can sit on the floor when placed there by an adult.

Why should you care about this nuance? Well, being placed in sitting but not being able to do anything, reach for anything, play, eat, or get in and out of the position isn’t very functional for a baby. And we are all about functional play at Sprout and Thrive! Below you’ll find the progression of sitting and some fun and simple play activities to help your baby progress from being placed there, to playing or eating while sitting, and getting themselves in and out of it.

Happy playing! Progression of Sitting
  • Placed in sitting
  • Prop sitting (sits with arms in front of them, hands on the floor)
  • Reaching in sitting
  • Two handed use in sitting

How to Play with a New Sitter

A new sitter is usually ~5+ months old, has their hands on the floor, and needs your help to keep their balance. Play Ideas:
  1. If your baby is just learning to sit and is still using their hands to prop themselves up, try playing with toys low on the ground, near their feet to keep the balance challenge minimal.
  2. Sit behind your baby. Place your hands in a ring around their ribs or upper hips. Place a toy near their toes and encourage them to reach for it. If they start to tip forward, put some slight downward pressure into the floor (where the hips should stay glued to the floor) to help them learn where their balance point (center of gravity) should be. If you can play in front of a mirror, that’s ideal because you can interact, sing, make faces, and engage with your baby.
  3. If your baby keeps throwing themselves backward, try putting a towel roll under their bum to raise their hips higher than their legs. This may help encourage balance to be more forward instead of backward.

How to Play with a Confident Sitter

Reaching and playing in sitting (~6-8 months) is a very functional skill that leads to a baby learning how to sit and eat, color, or do a puzzle. Whatever it is you do while sitting you almost always want your hands free to do something while you’re there, so this is a big milestone to celebrate! You can read more on hand skill development or play ideas for baby hands. Play Ideas:
  1. Blow bubbles while your baby is sitting. Encourage them to reach up and pop them. This activity keeps them sitting and reaching in a challenging position longer because they are distracted. Tip: When baby looks upward in sitting, it challenges their balance more so start blowing low, near their feet, and then move upward.
  2. Present a toy in front of baby near chest height, in the center of their body. Give them two objects and encourage them to bang them together or to give one back to you.
  3. Challenge baby to reach for items you hold out in the air above or beside them. Move the placement around and change giving a toy on the left and right sides.

More ideas here

How to Encourage Baby to Get in/out of Sitting on their Own A baby needs to be able to play in sitting on their own (~7-10 months) and not topple over easily before they'll be able to move in and out of sitting on their own. Play Ideas:
  1. Place toys a little out of reach so they have to plant one hand on the ground (like the pic) and reach. Do it on both sides and in front.
  2. Help baby play on their side, propped up on one elbow. This will help them get into the position to start pushing up into sitting.
  3. Hold toys up and above baby in sitting so they have to turn and reach for them with hands off the ground - this will help strengthen their core for getting in/out of sitting.
Once your baby masters sitting on their own, they’ll start working on crawling! For more tips and play ideas on future milestones, head over to our blog. I’d love for you to join the Sprout and Thrive Tribe on Instagram (@_sproutandthrive) or at We’re all about empowering caregivers with knowledge and skills to support their baby’s development from infancy through their first steps. We have tons of simple, research-based play ideas on our blogs. Or, join our Caregiver Academy where we remove the worry of new parenthood and arm you with tools and how-to-help videos so you can help your baby master motor milestones from newborn - first steps, confidently start solid foods, and more!
Bree has a Masters of Occupational Therapy and a Bachelors in Special Education and Rehabilitation. She has spent the last several decades working with families in outpatient, aquatic, and home-based settings specializing in early intervention and is certified in neurodevelopmental treatment. Bree co-founded a non-profit organization, focused on serving thousands of underprivileged families with special needs in Mexico and teaching hands-on curriculum to 40+ teams of therapy students. Bree loves to travel the world. She’s a wife, mother to a busy toddler, and has another baby on the way. She has curated her years of knowledge and research-based experiences into parent friendly, play-based activities and resources to help caregivers and infants thrive.
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