The first year of your baby’s life is the start of a lifelong learning journey fueled by exploration.
During the first 12 months of your child’s life their brain will double in size as they learn and grow. As parents we are looking out for those familiar gross motor skills milestones – sitting, crawling, walking. Alongside these movements involving the large muscles of the arms, legs and body, fine motor skills will also be shaping your infant’s ability to navigate and make sense of the world around them.
From that first reflex action, grasping your finger at just a few seconds old, to reaching and grasping an object to put it in their mouth at six months, to holding a cup and drinking independently at around one year old, your baby is learning.
In this blog post we’ll explore what you can do to improve your baby’s fine motor skills leading to better hand-eye coordination, finger control and ability to manipulate objects, and why toys that encourage fine motor skills are so important.
What are fine motor skills, and why are they important?
Fine motor skills are the movements controlled by the muscles of the hand, fingers and thumb as well as feet and toes. It is these controlled actions, together with their senses, that enable your baby to navigate and interpret the world around them, increasing their dexterity and self-confidence along the way.
Some examples of early fine motor skills in your baby include being able to hold their own bottle, self-feed finger food, pick up a cup to drink, wave to say goodbye, pick up a toy and transfer it from one hand to another. Each of these achievements is a significant milestone in your child’s journey to independence, feeding their knowledge and understanding of new concepts as part of their early education.
How can I help my baby to develop their fine motor skills?
By incorporating toys that stimulate and inspire play involving fine motor skills into your baby’s daily routine during the first year and beyond, you are not only helping their muscle and sensory development but also their confidence and ability to transition into independent play and pursuits.
Grasping, holding, pinching, pressing and letting go at the right time to get the outcome we want are learned abilities. The fine motor skills your baby needs to develop to achieve these gradually develop and improve with practice, helping them to move through developmental milestones.
As their precision improves, babies become toddlers able to grasp and use utensils to eat, fasten Velcro straps on shoes and grasp chunky crayons to draw.
What baby toys and tools can I choose to help with fine motor skills?
Learning is not always easy. No matter what our age, perfecting a new skill can result in moments of frustration.
In typical development of gross motor skills, facilitating strength, movement and balance support the development of fine motor skills. So it is important when considering the development of these skills that you are also choosing toys that give your child plenty of opportunity to achieve their goals of strength, movement and achieving an upright position, as from here they will hone their movements to achieve their fine motors skills.
You can help your baby develop their fine motor skills, support gross motor skill development, reduce their frustration, and spark their interest through a variety of toys and tools:
- Learn new colours and textures with sensory toys and teethers
- Build dexterity from weaning with the Earth First Tableware Range
- Use bath time play for learning with Splish Splash Stacking Cups, Sea Animal Squirting Toys or enjoy the colourful pictures and texture of our waterproof Bath Book.
- Build and stack with the Rocket Stacking Toy to explore early maths concepts, and cause and effect (suitable from birth they are also great for teething)
- Encourage your infant to reach, grasp and pull with an interactive activity gym
- From around 6 months, as they become more upright, they will enjoy learning to pinch, pound, push and turn with a Push Along Baby Walker.
Fine motor skills milestones 0-12 months:
Developmental milestones are used to determine whether a child’s development is on track. We are all familiar with the significant gross motor skills that your baby will master within its first two years, including rolling over, sitting and walking. Each child is different, some children walk as early as eight months, others at 18 months – both are within the normal range.
Similarly, fine motor skills vary according to age ranges. We have broadly outlined some common milestones below according to age below should you wish to look out for these. Please note that these are a guide. Please talk to your child's health visitor or GP if you have any concerns about your child's development.
Typical fine motor skills developmental milestones 0-6 months:
- From birth your baby will automatically grasp your finger and hold tight
- From around 3 months your baby will grasp and hold onto an object placed in his or her hand on stroking the palm
- This is replaced by voluntary grasping at 3-6 months
- At around 4-5 months your child will start to grasp toys with both hands, touching or banging an object on a surface
- At 4-6 months he or she will start to be able to pick up an object using the palm of the hand (without the thumb)
During the second half of their first year you will start to see your baby:
- Reaching for objects or picking up a toy they have dropped
- Putting toys and food in their mouth
- Grasping and releasing objects in a controlled way
- Using their thumb and one finger to pick things up
- Able to move an object from one hand to the other
We have also included some milestones for 1-2 years. By this time, your child should be able to:
- Build a tower using three small blocks
- Stack up to four rings
- Turn pages, a few at a time
- Grasp a crayon and mark on paper
- Feed themselves and drink from a cup independently
By practicing their fine motor skills and experiencing a range of shapes, textures and movements, your child will also be developing an understanding and knowledge of:
- Texture, shape, weight
- How to manipulate objects in their hands
- How to coordinate the movements of their hands and their arms together
- How to coordinate movements of their hands and fingers with other parts of their body like their mouth, ears, eyes and nose
Choosing toys that will help your baby develop these skills:
At Nuby we understand that building these abilities takes practice. Toys that encourage use and control of these small muscles are a great way to naturally introduce activities that improve your young child’s fine motor skills into their day, providing opportunities for them to learn as they grow.
Check out our full range of baby toys that will delight and entertain your infant, supporting their exploration, sensory development and hand-eye coordination during their first 12 months of life.