Encouraging fine-motor skills through play
Developing fine motor skills - the use of the small muscles that control the hand, fingers and thumb -is very important in your baby's first year. Here's what you can do to encourage it.
Understand that fine motor skills aren’t inherent
Essie de Jager, a trained early-childhood teaching professional and passionate caregiver at Tjokkertuin Childcare Centre in Malmesbury, says that parents often worry needlessly about their baby’s fine motor skills when they’re unsure about the development timeline.
“It helps to understand that fine motor skills aren’t part of a newborn's movement repertoire - the deliberate use of fingers is not reflexive and needs time to develop. Fine motor skills start in the brain; your baby needs to see and recognise something before they are able to reach or grab for it. It's only around three months of age when your infant's vision, hearing and memory are developed enough to recognise desirable objects and reach for it deliberately,” she explains.
Invest in a fun play mat
“While your baby is still unable to roll or move around on their own, fun play mats with dangling toys are a great way to promote the development of fine motor skills,” suggests Essie. “By three months, most infants will be able to recognise and reach for the toys. By four months of age, they will generally be able to grasp a toy. By six months, most babies are coordinated enough to bring an object to their mouth – this is when you need to keep an eye out for choking hazards.”
Combine mealtime and playtime
“Between eight and twelve months your little one will begin to develop a pincer grasp that allows them to pick up much smaller objects between their thumbs and forefingers,” explains Essie. “This is a good time to introduce your child to smaller pieces of food and encouraged them to self-feed.”
Babyproof your house for exploration
Essie says that babies learn best by exploring of their own volition. Once your baby starts crawling and moving, this means that they will be setting out to explore undiscovered parts of your home, which in turn calls for some babyproofing.
“Ideally, you want your baby to move around freely without any risk of injury, which of course calls for babyproofing sharp corners, loose cords and accessible electric outlets. It also helps to keep your home uncluttered, so you are able to see small objects lying around before your curious baby does. Get down on your hands and knees when you do a clean-up around the house – crawling babies will quickly spot some forgotten coins or paperclips under the couch or bed.”
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