Fine motor skills are crucial to your cutie’s growth and development. Babies need coordination and dexterity to eat, play, and grasp at small items right now—and to stack, dig, toss, draw, color, write, and keyboard later.
Of course, ability and timing varies from baby to baby, with some tots running somewhat ahead of the curve, and others slightly behind it. Check out the tips below to support your baby’s fine motor development in the first two years of life.
Age: 0 to 3 months
What he can do: Wave arms randomly and involuntarily. Keep hands in a fisted position. Spread hands apart if surprised or crying. Start to lift his neck and head. Move arms together and apart.
How to support his progress: Take advantage of tummy time. Place your infant on his stomach to strengthen his back and neck muscles (under your supervision). Hold out a colorful toy or make an interesting noise to grab his attention. Being tummy down encourages weight bearing on the hands, helps strengthen hand muscles, and builds wrist stability.
Age: 4 to 6 months
What she can do: Grasp at objects and attempt to hold onto them. Mold her hand around the shape of an item she’s holding. Grab, reach for, and mouth favorite possessions; grab her own hands and feet. Transfers objects from hand to hand.
How to support her progress: Bat at a dangling crib toy or mobile to demonstrate how to move it. Encourage her to release objects by dropping a toy in water to make a splash. Help her practice holding toys by pressing a fabric block between her hands. Play pat-a-cake to help her gain control of her hands and learn to bring them to the middle of her body.
Age: 7 to 12 months
What he can do: Maneuver into a hands-and-knees position for crawling. Grab an object and hold onto it, even if you try to pull it away.
How to support his progress: Encourage him to explore lower cabinets, shelves, or drawers (make sure they are secure), allowing him to practice reaching and grabbing. (Remove dangerous items in advance.) Provide baby-safe toys with fabric buttons or knobs that encourage him to use his fingers. Play tug-of-war with a rattle; he builds strength as he resists your efforts.
Age: 13 to 16 months
What she can do: Point to pictures in books. Grip objects and release them onto the floor or into a container.
How to support her progress: Provide crayons and paper to encourage marks and scribbles. Offer stackable items for building.
Age: 17 to 20 months
What he can do: Build two-cube towers. Use index finger to point.
How to support his progress: Offer large plastic rings and yarn for stringing, paper for shredding, or lettuce to tear and help you make a salad (great for nutrition and strength!)
Age: 21 to 24 months
What she can do: Make circular scribbles. Approximate vertical lines. Hold a crayon between thumb and fingers.
How to support her progress: Hand over wooden spoons and bowls for drumming, mud to knead, large Popsicle sticks and wet sand for stirring, and age-appropriate puzzles to build motor skills as she pieces the pictures together.