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Developing Fine Motor Skills in Babies

by Jennifer Shu, M.D., FAAP
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From the minute she's born, your baby is constantly learning about her environment and her own body and how it works. In the first few months, your baby will discover her hands, feet, fingers, and toes, and not long after, she'll realize she can control their movements. At first you can help develop her fine motor skills by simply allowing her to grasp your finger while you hold her. As she gets older, you can offer age-appropriate toys to stimulate her fine motor coordination and make learning fun.

Age-appropriate Toys

Newborns up to 3 months: By about three months of age, babies can grasp and shake objects and bat at toys. Consider using rattles and an activity floor mat that has soft hanging objects such as the Gymini Double-Sided Playmat.

3 to 6 Months: During this stage, babies grab their hands and feet and can kick. You may want to offer toys that make sounds or light up when kicked. In addition, babies now have the coordination to consistently put objects in their mouths, so choose teething toys that are durable yet safe such as the Sophie Giraffe All-Natural Teether.

6 Months to 1 Year: By the end of the first year, babies can pick up small objects using a thumb and index finger. They can bang items together and place things in a container, then take them out again. Favorite toys at this stage include nesting cups, stacking rings, soft blocks, and shape-sorting cubes.

1 to 2 Years: Toddlers like to push buttons, turn knobs, and pull things along with their newfound ability to walk. They also enjoy imitating adult behaviors such as talking on the phone, "working" on the computer, using tools, and sweeping or vacuuming the floor. Offer child-tailored versions of the real thing, such as a hammer and workbench or mini laptop.  
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Meet Our Expert
Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP
Pediatrician & CNN Health Columnist
Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP, is a mother and practicing pediatrician in Atlanta, Georgia. A frequent guest on national and local television, radio, and web-based programs, she is medical editor in chief of HealthyChildren.org, is the Living Well health expert for CNN.com, contributes medical information to WebMD.com, and serves on the Parents magazine advisory board.

Dr. Shu also coauthored the award-winning books: Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor, and a Bottle of Ketchup and Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality.

She has chaired the young physicians sections for both the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Medical Association and formerly served as director of the normal newborn nursery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
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Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP