Pediatric Physical Therapy - an infant exercising on a table

Infant motor skills include many kinds of skills such as grabbing, reaching and manipulating objects using the hands. It refers to the movement and use of hands in infants and they may appear simple in the early stages. However, they are detrimental to a child’s growth and development. Infant motor skills are developed through play as infants use toys to develop their tiny muscles at their hands and fingers and this growth occurs everyday from newborn. As time goes, they would be able to do things independently which progresses on to more difficult tasks including drawing, coloring, tying their shoelaces and doing up their zips on their own.

The Importance of an Infant’s Fine Motor Skills

All children need motor skills as they grow and the reasons are as follows:

  • To meet developmental milestones
  • To prevent early motor delays and conditions that could possibly interrupt development
  • To be able to explore the world where it promotes speech, sensory and cognitive development
  • To develop independence and confidence that develops skills in turn including executive function
  • To be able to complete tasks and move around independently

Milestones of an Infant’s Fine Motor Skills

  • 3 months old – an infant should be able to hold at least a small object in their hand without their thumbs tucked.
  • 5 months old – your child should be able to reach for a toy and hold on to it briefly.
  • 6 months old – a child’s eyes should be able to follow follows in different directions.
  • 7 months old – transferring objects from one hand to the other should be achievable.
  • 8 months old – your child should have the ability to pick up small foods and put it in their mouth. Their hands should be relaxed and they should be able to keep their hands open most of the time.
  • 10 months old – the child should be able to give toys to their caregiver when asked as they can now release objects with their hands at will.
  • 15 months old – children at this age are able to put their toys into a container.
  • 16 months old – your child would be able to use both hands to play and be able to point at objects using the index finger.
  • 17 months old – building a block tower with 3 to 4 blocks would be manageable for your child.

Apart from the use of toys, parents can help develop their infant’s motor skills through different activities including ‘tummy time’ where they lie on their tummies and learn to push up using their elbows and subsequently using their hands. Getting babies to look at faces with different expressions will also help with their visual skills. Parents can also develop sensory skills through giving their infants a massage.

Understanding the basics of infant motor skills is important for every young parent. Parents can find different methods to help their child develop their motor skills when they reach the different milestones, which in turn improves the bond between parent and child. Alternatively, various infant programs also provide exposure for children to develop their motor skills.

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