Developmental milestones: grasping

 

Learning how to hold things opens up a whole new world of play for your baby. It’s also the first step towards your baby doing things for herself, such as eating, brushing her teeth, reading, writing, and drawing.

When will my baby be able to grasp objects?

Your baby can grasp an object from the moment she is born. At birth, grabbing is an instinct, but by the time she is three months, it’s a skill she is keen to develop. She’ll work to reach and pick up favourite toys. By the time she’s a year old, she will have the coordination to pick up and hold things securely in her hands.

How will grasping develop?

Your baby’s ability to grasp things will develop gradually over her first year.

 

Newborn to two months

If you place your finger in your newborn’s palm, she’ll curl her tiny fingers around yours. This instinct to grasp is a reflex, and it’s at its strongest for the first eight weeks of your baby’s life. This reflex will have gone by the time she is three months.Your baby’s hands will mostly be clenched in a fist during her first couple of months. You may notice her beginning to open and close her hands and look at them. She may even try to wave a fist at nearby toys.

Three months to four months

Your baby’s hand-eye coordination is starting to develop. She’ll notice toys she’d like to hold, and she’ll attempt to pick them up. She may not be able to grasp them, so she’ll just bat at them. If you put something in her hand, such as a rattle, she may be able to hold it for a few seconds.A baby gym is great entertainment for your baby at three months to four months. She will still be flat on her back at this age, but as she lies on a soft mat she can swipe at the fun, colourful mobiles hanging above her.



Four months to eight months

At four months or five months your baby can pick up large objects, such as building blocks. She won’t be able to let go of them easily, though.

At six months your baby starts to hone her hand-eye coordination. She will rake an object toward herself, and will start passing objects from one hand to the other. She will also like to shake things that make a noise, so a rattle will be a great toy for her. Keep potentially dangerous objects out of her reach from now on, and start child-proofing your home, if you haven’t already.

You will notice that your baby loves to put objects she has picked up into her mouth. If you have older children, you will need to make sure their toys are out of your baby’s reach. Toys for older children often have small parts, which are a choking hazard for your baby.

If your baby grabs a piece of food to put in her mouth, it could be a sign she is ready for solids. The Department of Health recommends you wait until your baby is six months old before giving her solid food. Once your baby is ready, be careful not to give her anything small she could choke on, and never leave her on her own when she is eating.



Nine months to 12 months

Your baby can pick up objects with little effort now. Once she has something, she may hand it over to you, or drop it just to watch you pick it up.

She’s also improving her pincer grasp, which means she can pick up small objects, such as a raisin, between her thumb and forefinger. As her coordination improves, she may try to grab her spoon and attempt to feed herself at mealtimes. She may not always be on target, though!

Once my baby can grasp things, what comes next?

Once your baby perfects grasping, throwing isn’t far behind, so watch out! Your baby may take delight in hurling her toys and having you pick them up.

When your baby is 15 months, she may enjoy stacking bricks in a tower and banging things together.

By 18 months, her preference for her left hand or right hand is emerging. Her dominant hand will be stronger and more dexterous than the other. But you won’t know for sure if she’s right-handed or left-handed until she’s about four years old.

By the time your baby is two years old, she’ll be able to pick up tiny objects easily and place them back down again, carefully and precisely. She may enjoy playing with shape-sorting toys and simple jigsaws. Her artistic side will come out, too, so she’ll hold a crayon or pencil and enjoy scribbling.

At three years old, she’ll be coordinated enough to use toy scissors and write down a letter or two, or draw a cross.



How can I encourage my baby to reach and grasp for objects?

You can stimulate your baby’s grasping reflex by putting a toy or colourful object slightly out of her reach and encouraging her to grab it. Give her objects she can grasp easily, such as soft blocks, plastic rings, and board books. Don’t put them so far away that she has no chance of reaching them, or she’ll get frustrated.

Later, when your baby is working on her pincer grasp, encourage her to pick up finger foods, such as sliced banana and cooked carrot. This will make eating more fun for your baby, and it will also teach her how to chew. She’ll use her spoon or fork when she’s ready.



What should I do if my baby isn’t interested in grasping things?

Every baby develops at their own pace, so perhaps your baby isn’t ready yet. However, it’s worth talking to your doctor or health visitor if:

  • Your baby doesn’t seem to notice any toy you put in front of her by the time she’s two months old.
  • Your baby doesn’t attempt to touch or pick up anything by the time she’s nine months old.

Bear in mind that if your baby was born early (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), she may reach this and other milestones a little later than most other babies. If you have any worries about your baby’s development, talk to your health visitor or doctor. Source: babycentre.co.uk

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