Between the ages of about seven and nine months, your baby will probably start getting into a hands-and-knees position for crawling. Even before he actually starts moving forward in this position, the rocking back and forth that he does is very important to his hand development. Holding himself up in that manner will not only strengthen his shoulders, hips, and trunk muscles, but it will also help to lengthen the muscles and tissues of his palm and fingers. Using his arms to balance himself as he moves through different positions will help develop the arches of his hand.
Your baby’s grip is noticeably stronger now, and she can hold onto an object even as someone tries to tug it away from her. You may notice that she seems more interested in the items that she is holding as well, and this is because of her improved ability to visually focus on things and to pay attention to what she’s doing. She is also now able to rotate her forearm, which allows her to turn things over and explore them from every angle. You will also see her begin to use her thumb to help when picking up smaller objects, and she can carry objects along with her as she crawls.
By about nine months, your baby should be able to point at things with his index fingers and begin trying to pick up Cheerios using only his thumb and index finger. His ability to release objects is much better, and he can now do so without needing wrist support. Because gross motor control is so much better now, he can focus more energy on using his two hands together to explore things.
Fine Motor Development Skills & Exercises for Babies 7 – 12 Months
- Caregivers can let their babies explore smaller toys such as blocks or Little People figures, to practice different pinch and grasp patterns.
- Finger-feeding Cheerios continues to be a great pastime, and caregivers will notice their babies becoming more successful with this task. Placing a single Cheerio in each section of an empty ice cube tray is a fun way to challenge your baby to use a two-fingered pinch.
- As your baby becomes more mobile, allowing him to explore lower cabinets, shelves, or drawers allows him to practice reaching and grasping while also challenging him in positions of hands-and-knees and tall-kneeling.
- Your baby will still enjoy container play, but will be even better at the dumping part. There are a lot of household items that will work for this purpose, because right now just about everything is new and interesting to your baby. Try using pots and pans, clean food containers, purses, cups, etc., and let your baby fill them with blocks, bean bags, clothespins, small food packages, utensils or rolled socks.
- Looking at books is always a great way to spend playtime with your baby, and she will be better able to point at pictures in the book and to try to turn the pages. She will have more success turning board book pages at this stage rather than paper pages.
- Toys with buttons that baby can push are fun at this age, as is pushing elevator buttons.
12 Month Fine Motor Skills
Between the ages of 10 and 12 months, you may notice that your baby starts to show a hand preference. She’s really using her hands together now, but at this point you’ll see her use one hand to hold an object still while trying to move part of it with the other. She’s now using her hands to push, pull, squeeze and rotate objects, and may be able to pull her socks off.
By about 12 months, your baby will probably be able to pinch small objects using the tip of his index finger and his thumb. He will be more successful with finger-feeding, and even more motivated to use a spoon by himself.
Fine Motor Development Skills & Exercises for Babies 10 – 12 Months
- This is a good time to introduce scribbling, allowing your baby to use a large crayon or marker. It may help to tape the paper to the table, since your baby is not yet able to hold the paper still. Don’t worry that your baby isn’t holding the crayon or marker the “right way.”
- Songs that involve hand or finger play are fun at this age, for example “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and “The Wheels on the Bus.”
- Your baby might be able to stack large blocks and pull apart large Mega Blocks or Duplo Legos.
- Place a Cheerio or Goldfish cracker inside a small bottle and challenge your baby to get it out by dumping it.
- Finger-painting is great at this age. If your baby is determined to ‘eat” the paint, use a food instead, such as whipped cream, yogurt, Jello pudding or baby food. Works of art can be produced right on the table top, a placement, or high chair tray to make clean-up easier.
At one year, most toddlers can accomplish the following fine motor skills:
- Reach, grasp and put objects into mouth
- Pick things up with pincer grasp (thumb and one finger)
- Transfer objects from one hand to the other
- Drop and pick up toys
- Bang two objects together
- Release objects (purposefully)
- Put objects into and take objects out of containers with large openings
- Pinch small objects, such as a Cheerio, with thumb and pointer finger
- Bite and chew toys
- Hold a spoon
- Hold out an arm or leg to help with dressing
Parenting Tips for Fine Motor Skills:
You can help with baby developmental milestones. Suggested play to help an infant 8 to 12 months of age develop fine motor skills:
- To encourage reaching with one arm, use small toys, as large toys encourage two-handed reach. Present a cookie and wait for reach, place a toy key ring over your infant’s toes, and use bubbles to encourage reach.
- To promote banging objects for play, offer items such as a spoon, rattle, tray, pot, or pans. Bang a squeak toy against a table.
- To promote wrist movements, use colorful wristbands with bells attached to the wrists. Banging, mouthing, and shaking objects helps encourage wrist movements.
- To encourage transferring toys, offer a ball of masking tape. Place it in your infant’s hand to see if your child will attempt to pull it off with the other hand. During a meal, offering your baby a spoon is great for promoting transfer. Or stick a Cheerio to one of your infant’s hands to see if they will remove it with other hand.
- To promote picking up small objects, use cooked pasta or cubed Jello Jigglers placed on a highchair tray. For a fun challenge, provide finger foods (offered toward the thumb side of your infant’s hand).
- Let your baby paint with food. Yogurt, soft mashed carrots, or any other type of soft, smooth food is the perfect consistency for doing some finger painting. Of course, licking your baby’s fingers is part of the fun!
- Have your baby work for his or her meal. Pulling cooled noodles apart is a fun way to practice using his or her fingers.
- Have fun in the tub. Plastic cups, pitchers, measuring cups and sponges let your baby practice holding, pouring, and squeezing (not to mention making it fun to take a bath!).
- When supported, a sitting child will follow you with his or her eyes, reach and grasp for objects, drop objects, hold onto small objects, bring hands to mouth, and place both hands on a bottle when being bottle fed.
- To promote pincer grasp development, encourage pulling tissues from a box, pegs from a board, or a straw from a cup.
- To promote banging objects together, use blocks, spoons, small plastic cups, plastic rings from ring stacker toy.
- To promote taking items out of containers, use these items for containers: shoe box without lid, butter tub, pots, pans, and toy buckets. Use these items to fill the container: blocks, pop beads, bean bags, Lil’ people.
- At mealtime, place finger foods into an empty butter cup, and at bath time, use cups filled with water to dump into tub.
- To promote more wrist movements, encourage waving “hi’ and “bye.” Finger paint with pudding using a whole, open hand.
- To encourage voluntary release, roll a ball back and forth together. Let your baby grasp and release sand, grass, pasta, etc.
- To promote poke and probe using index finger, explore holes of toy dial phone, holes of a peg board, encourage pushing buttons such as doorbells or keys of a piano.
- Babies love to clap. Help your baby bring his or her hands together and clap. Then hide baby’s hands under a blanket. Your baby will enjoy watching his or her hands go away and come back.
- Some babies love to rip paper. If that sounds like your baby, get a big basket and some old magazines and let him or her rip, shred, and tear his or her way to happiness. (If your baby is more interested in putting wads of paper in his or her mouth, put the basket away and try again in a few weeks.)
- Learn how to twist. Let your baby watch you put Cheerios or another type of cereal into a twist top or snap-top container. Show your baby how to open it. After a few tries, your baby will be able to do this independently.
- Play catch. Make a ball out of a pair of socks. Sit close and toss it to your baby. Your baby probably cannot catch the ball, but it will enjoy trying and chasing after it.
- Read before bed. Your baby will enjoy listening to you read and looking at the pictures in simple baby books. Keep those fingers working by having your baby help you turn the page.