Baby neck exercises can prepare your baby for key skills -- such as crawling, rolling and sitting up -- and improve the flexibility and strength of her neck and shoulders. These exercises can also help prevent torticollis, a common condition in which your baby's neck becomes tight, sometimes leading to an abnormal head shape.
Building the Head
When your baby reaches the age of 3 to 4 months, she'll have more control over her head. If she's lying on her back, she should be able to lift her head about 45 degrees. At this age, you can play a sitting-up exercise to build her neck muscles. Begin by placing your baby on the floor on her back. Take hold of her hands and gently draw her up to sitting position. Slowly lower her back to the lying position. When you hold her head in alignment with her neck as you're guiding her up and down, your baby's neck muscles will grow stronger.
Rolling, Lifting and Reaching
Between 4 and 7 months of age your baby will start to roll around on her belly. She'll raise her head and push against the ground with her limbs to lift herself. These motions help to strengthen her neck and body for sitting up and crawling. Because of anxiety over sudden infant death syndrome, you may not be giving your baby enough time to roll around on her stomach. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes per day to allow your baby to play on her tummy. You can roll up a small towel and place it under her chest and upper arms for support. Put toys in front of her so she must lift her head and reach for them. You can also sing or talk in front of her as well as play "airplane," in which you fly your baby around the room with her belly down.
Rotating the Head
Exercises that encourage your baby to turn her head from side to side will stretch and strengthen her neck muscles. For example, during play time, put toys to the left and right sides of her head. When they draw her attention, she'll turn her head and stretch her neck. When you put your baby down for nap time, position her body away so she's facing the wall. Because she'll want to peer at the room, she'll naturally turn her head away from the wall, exercising her neck muscles.
To improve the flexibility of her neck, you can help your baby stretch it from side to side. Begin by having her sit on a changing table, carpeted floor or your lap. Place one hand on her left shoulder and the other hand on top of the right side of her head. Slowly and gently draw her left ear to her left shoulder, and then allow her to lift her head back to center. Repeat the stretch on the other side.