Fine Motor Skills Milestones Between 3 to 6 Months

CME WebsitesChild Development, Infants 3 - 12 Months

At this stage, your baby is beginning to have more control of his or her grasp, and will make an effort to hold onto objects. He or she still is not able to let go of them very well, but their hand is starting to mold itself around the shape of the object she’s holding. By about five months, many babies can easily bring their hands and toys to their mouths. At this age, a baby usually has enough control of his arms and hands to reach up and explore items in front of them and can even shake toys. The baby is also now beginning to notice differences in the way objects feel, and will move a toy from one hand to the other.

Ideas to help your baby work on developing better strength and control include:

  • Offer a variety of small infant toys to baby to explore. Using toys that have different shapes, colors, sounds, and textures will help her learn to adjust her grip and explore ways to make them move or produce noise. Small squeeze toys and teething rings are ideal items to use, and are safe for small babies.
  • Try offering two different toys at the same time, holding them apart from each other. Baby can choose one of them at a time and begin to learn how the appearance of an object relates to the way it feels in her hand and how she has to hold it.
  • Help the baby bring her hands together, so she can feel and explore toys.

Helping Your Infant Achieve 3 – 6 Month Fine Motor Skills Milestones

You can help with infant developmental milestones. Suggested play to help an infant 3 to 6 months of age develop fine motor skills:

  • Encourage looking from one toy to another using floating toys during a bath.  Tape two simple bright pictures a few inches apart on wall next to where your baby sleeps or plays.
  • To promote early reaching, tap your baby’s hand with a toy to encourage reaching.  Swipe a dangling toy to show your baby how the toy will dance when using mobiles and crib gyms.
  • To promote reaching with both arms, nuzzle your baby’s tummy with your face to encourage touching your head with both arms, use plastic sunglasses to promote your baby to reach and pull off, or place a toy between your lips for reaching and removing.
  • Encourage looking at small items.  Items of interest may be buttons on your shirt, colored finger nails, a Band-Aid, or a refrigerator magnet.
  • To encourage looking at distant objects, turn ceiling fans on and off, turn lights on and off, roll a ball past and away from your baby, or look out the window to see cars, dogs, children playing outside.
  • Encourage purposeful release of objects.  During a bath, drop toys in water to make a splash. While seated in a high chair, use cereal (Cheerios or Rice Crispies) to encourage grasping and releasing a handful.  Or do the same with and ice cube or bits of ice (coldness may promote release).

At about six months, the caregiver may notice that her baby’s success with using her hands depends on the position she is in. For example, she may have better control when handling an object if she’s lying on her back or sitting up with a caregiver’s help, than she does when she is sitting independently. This is because of the increased support to her spine when she’s lying on the floor or being helped to stay in a sitting position. At this age, the success that baby has with holding onto an object depends on the size, shape, and firmness of it. Toys that are bigger than the baby’s palm are harder for him to hold onto. The baby is becoming better at transferring a toy from one hand to the other. While he is getting better at letting go of objects, it’s still hard for him to do this with great control or without first resting his wrist on some kind of surface first.

You may notice that your baby is suddenly very interested in trying to pick up small items, such as pieces of carpet fuzz or Cheerios, and that she does this by attempting to “rake” the object towards her palm with all the fingers except for her thumb. Feeding your baby at this age can be a messy experience, as she tries to “help” by constantly reaching for the spoon as you bring it towards her mouth.

  • This is a great time to introduce what we call “container play.” A fancy term which means putting objects into a container, taking or dumping them out, and doing it again. Using a container, such as a bowl, soup pot, plastic coffee can, small bucket etc. gives the baby a surface on which to rest her wrist and then successfully release the toy. The added fun of seeing it disappear and reappear, and the different sounds made add to the excitement.
  • Using toys of different shapes and sizes will help her continue to adjust her grasp and will also help the development of the arches in her palm.
  • If your baby is ready for first finger foods (check with your pediatrician), allowing her to try to pick them up from her high chair tray and get them to her mouth is a great way to practice improving her pinch skills.
  • When spoon-feeding baby, give him a spoon of his own to hold onto. You could also give him a teething ring to hold, and dip it in his baby food so he can try “feeding himself” that way too.