Encouraging Independent Sitting

This entry is part 27 of 33 in the series Baby Days

encouraging independent sitting - help baby learn to sit independent of you without using a Bumbo seat

We have an independent sitter!  He doesn’t always remember that he is an independent sitter, but we are to the stage where he can sit on his own for over a minute!  I love this stage for kids!  It is so much fun to see them wobble and catch their balance.  And watching them get a new perspective on the world is neat.

I think we tend to forget just how much WORK it is for a baby to start sitting independently.  The muscles and balance involved is nothing short of herculean for these little five and six month old babies!  And I think there are a LOT of “helpers” on the market that don’t necessarily help baby to work out the core and find balance any faster than they would on their own.

We had a Bumbo seat with our first two babies.  And then I did the purge of 2015, weeks before I got pregnant with our third.  In that purge I got rid of almost everything baby related, including the Bumbo seat.  And when we found out we were pregnant, I had the opportunity to select the things that we would really use to purchase or put on our registry.

The Bumbo seat didn’t make the cut.  And it is not for the reason you would think.  I didn’t add it to our registry and I didn’t purchase one myself this time around; not because I don’t think they “help.”  But because I couldn’t believe how expensive they were!  I did not remember spending as much on our first one and I just couldn’t bring myself to part with the money.

So, we tried the independent sitting “training” a different way this time around.  Unaided by any baby sitting devices, our little one still reached the milestone of independently sitting at the exact same time as his older sisters (who had the benefit of the Bumbo).  And what was wonderful about this process is that I discovered some tips and tricks for encouraging independent sitting with our baby that I wanted to share with you.

Sitting with baby

You may think it is strange that I am going to tell you how to sit with your child to encourage independent sitting, but I kind of “discovered” a great way to assist baby with sitting, without a “helper.”   And what is great about it is that even big brothers and sisters can help to hold baby this way, too!  So here goes:

Sit on a soft surface (a rug or carpet or blanket) and put your legs into the shape of a 4, bringing one foot in to rest next to the other thigh.  Make sure there is a large enough opening between your body and your bent leg. Place baby’s bottom in that space and put his legs over your calf.

encouraging independent sitting - the 4 position

Baby should be able to rest his hands on both your thighs and will have a place for his feet to “dangle” like he is sitting.  From this position you can help support him when he starts to tumble in any direction.

When you start sitting this way, you can help support baby’s back by sitting up straight and tall.  As baby’s core muscles begin to develop, you can lean back more and more to give him less and less support.  Think of your back like a recliner in this case.  He will continue to sit up and you will give him less support as you lean back.

In this case you become the Bumbo seat.

Another way to sit with baby

You may get tired of sitting in the 4 position and never getting to see your baby’s face – missing out on those sweet drooly smiles.  In this case, you may want to sit yourself with baby in front of a mirror (mirror time with baby is SO important, too!)


You can sit baby on a soft surface in front of you and support him in different places as he gets better at sitting on his own.  At first, you will want to hold him under the arms, then in the middle of his tummy, then at the hips, and lastly at the knees.  You work your way down his body as his core muscles grow stronger and his balance improves.  Each of these support places encourage the development of specific muscles in the core while still giving baby help to sit on his own.  When he is getting good at the independent sitting, but is still a little wobbly, you can also hold one or both of his hands to support him.

encouraging independent sitting - help baby learn to sit independent of you without using a Bumbo seat

When to work on independent sitting

Just like tummy time and mirror time for baby, sitting time is an important part of baby’s everyday routine.  And just as with those other important routines for baby, you will have to work up to longer stretches of sitting time with baby.  I recommend you try to sit with baby for 5 minutes at first and work up from there.  You will also keep in mind when baby last ate.

We typically feed our little one when he wakes up from a rest time, change his diaper, burp him (etc.) let him play for a few minutes on his back or tummy, and then spend some time sitting with him.  This activity is very hard work for baby!  So, we have noticed that after longer stretches of sitting, he will get fussy and tired and be ready to head back to bed!

Independent Sitting play

The entertainment that comes with independent sitting is so much fun!  Baby is now able to grasp things (and bring everything to his mouth) and is more attentive and aware of moving parts.  So there are some fun things we have enjoyed playing with during our independent sitting time:

  • Fingers and toes!  This stage of baby’s development is where he is discovering fingers and toes and they are magical!  Coming up with some simple finger and toe play songs to keep baby entertained is so much fun.  We have a fun counting finger play we do with our kids (the older ones still love it!).  There are so many great finger and toe play songs for babies that toddlers and preschoolers will love teaching to younger siblings.
  • Sitting in the 4 position on top of a baby gym will give baby a different perspective of something they have likely already fallen in love with.  Still having the hanging toys in their regular positions, but baby reaching forward (not up) for them creates variety with this toy.
  • Introducing stacking toys to baby is so easy while working on independent sitting.  Our little man loves to see the toys stacked up and then watch them tumble down.  He likes to take the one off the top and put it in his mouth!
  • Teething toys are also a great thing to have on hand for independent sitting play.  Our little man is obsessed with the giraffe in this teething toy collection.

Independent Sitting Learning

Baby is constantly learning no matter what you are doing.  He is constantly processing information and making connections.  But one of the BEST things you can do while working on independent sitting with baby is to READ to him!

While independent sitting development is going on, you can show baby the very basics of reading: turning a page, reading from right to left, and listening to words while looking at pictures.  We are big readers in this house and we have lots of favorite books for all our kids.  For babies at this stage, I recommend

Independent Sitting around the house

If you are looking to help baby learn to sit but are still trying desperately to keep your house in order (I hear ya, sister!), a great solution is a smaller square laundry basket.  Keeping baby close by is great for getting some things done.  You can put some small toys in with him to keep him occupied.  Or tie some old fabric scraps into the holes of the basket for baby to discover.  If you are concerned about baby tipping over inside the basket and hurting himself, you may want to pad the basket with a soft blanket.  If you are concerned about baby tipping the basket over, you will want to make sure you have a strong-bottomed basket that is sitting on a flat surface on the ground (not the counter!).  Baby likely will not be able to tip over the basket.

encouraging independent sitting - using a laundry basket for sitting, so you can get something done around the house

It is pretty amazing how fast babies reach this important milestone!  And watch out!  Because once you have an independent sitter, it won’t be long until he starts to crawl.  We just went in to get our little man yesterday and he was already up on all fours and rocking back and forth!

encouraging independent sitting - help baby learn to sit independent of you without using a Bumbo seat

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