Fine motor activities require skilled use of the hands as well as coordination to perform a task. Early fine motor skills set the stage for many tasks in life that require well developed fine motor skills and coordination such as handwriting, computer skills, and feeding. Fine motor development can often be overlooked as parents watch for gross motor milestones such as sitting, crawling, and walking. Using this guide can help you to monitor your child's fine motor progress and ensure that he/she stays on the right track.
Birth to 3 Months
One would think that there is nothing in the way of fine motor skill development happening for a tiny newborn. However, there are a few tricks that your little one will be developing over this time. Around 1 month old, babies should be tightly grasping objects placed in their hand, such as your finger. At two months, babies can hold small toys for short periods of time and may begin to swing at objects such as dangling toys from a mobile. It is around this time that babies will start to notice their own hands.
Between four and five months, infants are able to reach and grab a small toy with both hands as well as bang objects on a table, such as the spoon as they sit on your lap at a restaurant. At around six months, the raking grasp emerges. The raking grasp is when a child uses their entire hand and all fingers to "rake" or pick-up small objects.
The critical fine motor skill that emerges during this time frame is the development of the pincer grasp. The pincer grasp entails using the thumb and index finger to pick up small objects. This is a critical fine motor skill to develop for self feeding. To help your child with the pincer grasp, allow opportunities to pick up small but appropriate foods such as Cheerios or dissolvable puffs or yogurt bites.
During this time, an infant will begin to place smaller items into a larger container such as blocks. At around 12 months is when a child really develops the skill to pick up an object and throw it. So, all of those pacifier and sippy cup chases are not in vain—it just shows that your baby is developing those fine motor skills. Around 12 months is an excellent time to introduce large peg puzzle boards to your baby.
While it may not seem that babies are doing a whole lot in regards to fine motor development, the first year is a critical stage to lay the foundation for higher level fine motor skills as a child gets older. If you have concerns about your child's fine motor development, consult with their pediatrician or an occupational therapist. An occupational therapist can work with you on ways to facilitate fine motor development and ensure your child is hitting all of their milestones.