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Do you know how BIG fine motor development is?

Posted Oct. 03, 2013, at 1:36 p.m.
Two children take turns working their small muscles during a fine motor playgroup.
Adrienne Randall
Two children take turns working their small muscles during a fine motor playgroup.

Motor development involves both fine and gross motor in a top to bottom process. This means development starts with the head, moves down into the trunk, arms and legs. Fine motor refers to the use of small muscles, such as those found in the hands. A newborn’s movements are controlled by reflexes for about the first month or so, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait that long to support your baby’s development.

As with developing any new skill, the key is to practice, practice and practice. A baby needs lots of practice. It wouldn’t be a good idea to give a baby a crayon for a number of reasons, but it would be a good idea to start what’s called tummy time. This is just what it sounds like – time spent on the tummy. This can be done by placing the baby on your chest. Once the umbilical cord has healed, the baby can be placed in a safe spot on the floor for tummy time. One reason why this helps with fine motor development is because babies are pushing themselves up with their hands and this strengthens their small muscles. Please remember is it not safe to leave the baby alone when they’re on their tummies.

Vision is an important aspect for developing fine motor skills. Babies begin to notice their hands around 2 months. They will learn how to bring their hands together and open them to hold things like a toy. Babies must learn how to coordinate their eyes and hands together, which is known as eye-hand coordination. Developing this skill is crucial for being able to use a pencil or tie shoes later on. Between 8 and 14 months, babies are able to use a pincer grasp. This means they can pick up tiny objects with some accuracy using their forefinger and thumb.

What else helps babies develop fine motor skills? Stacking blocks is a great way to work on fine motor while integrating language. If the blocks are different colors, name the colors and encourage your baby to group same colors together. Using play dough is a fun way to strengthen the hand muscles. By explaining to your child what he or she is doing, it will also help in other areas of development such as social/emotional growth.

If you or someone you know is pregnant or has a newborn at home and would like information about the Teen and Young Parent Program or Maine Families home visiting program, please call 207.594.1980 or toll-free within Maine at 877.972.5804. Enrollment takes place prenatally and up until the baby turns 3 months old. Parent Education Professionals use the Parents as Teachers(TM) curriculum to provide enrolled families with research-based, up-to-date information on subjects such as postpartum depression, language development, social/emotional development and much more. The Teen and Young Parent Program and Maine Families of Knox, Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties are proud to be affiliated with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. In complying with the letter and spirit of applicable laws and in pursuing its own goals of diversity, the University of Maine System shall not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation – including transgender status and gender expression – national origin, citizenship status, age, disability, or veterans’ status in employment, education and all other areas of the University. The University provides reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities upon request.

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