Helping your child develop strong fine motor skills will give them the best foundation to accomplish a range of everyday tasks and selfcare.
Starting your baby's development from a young age can have a profound impact on their confidence as they grow up. They'll be able to discover, explore more and go further which has a knock on effect on a range of wider developmental milestones.
At GRASP we're passionate about helping kids grow up confident. (It's right here in why we started building GRASP) We believe in developing their skills from a young age so they have a wide array of competences, because competence leads to confidence. So, the more kids are exposed to new challenges, the more they’ll learn to strengthen, overcome obstacles, and grow in confidence.
Understanding motor skills
Motor skills are the skills we use to move our bodies. It involves a complex mix of nerves, muscles, tendons and bones all working together. And most importantly, it requires a brain that can coordinate all these parts and remember how to repeat actions again and again.
The difference between gross motor and fine motor skills
Fine motor skills and gross motor skills work together to allow your baby to interact with the world around them. Gross motor skills are about the movement of larger muscle groups. They include sitting, crawling, walking and running.
Fine motor skills - as the name suggests - are about the more delicate and intricate use of tendons and muscles. They're typically associated with the movement of our fingers and hands to do more intricate tasks using various tools. They include everything from feeding to mark making. You might be most familiar with these skills in the context of their grip and grasp.
The importance of actively supporting your baby's motor skill development
It can often feel like many of our skills develop naturally. From language to fine motor skills, balance to emotional intelligence, there’s so much kids just seem to absorb without much attention.
That’s not totally the case though. It’s great that so much of what we give kids to do and how we interact with them is assumed. Talking to them, playing with them, giving them toys to entertain themselves and encouraging their progress can all come very naturally and it so happens that these are essential parts to raising competent kids.
But underlining our natural interactions are principles for how children learn that we can all be more deliberate in. The kind of toys we give babies, the responses and interaction we have with them, the stages at which we introduce new sensations can all be hugely advantageous to baby if we’re deliberate about what we do.
So the first step is understanding what’s behind some of those natural milestones we might otherwise take for granted.
What are your baby’s physical development milestones
To help develop your baby’s fine motor skills, it's important to start with an understanding of the milestones of their sensory and physical development from birth through the early months of their life.
Sensory and physical development milestones for newborn to 3 month old babies
Babies are usually born with a Palmar grasp reflex, a clenched fist that will wrap around your finger when you touch their palm
As they approach three months they will begin to reach for things and use their hand to bat things
Sensory and physical development milestones for 3 month to 6 month old babies
Baby can start to grab and lift items by themselves
They will be using their mouth to help them understand texture, which is why everything will end up slimy.
If they’re having a bath, they’ll start to explore splashing (both with hands and feet)
They will begin to appreciate toys that respond to touch so rattles, scrunchy books, or other noisy items that respond to shaking and bashing
Sensory and physical development milestones for 6 month to 1 year old babies
Baby will start learning the difference between 2D and 3D shapes so holding objects with different textures, with bumps ridges or with handles will be appreciated.
Your baby might now be shuffling or crawling around the room and are now able to explore new environments by themselves
As they start sitting up and can play with toys close to them they will enjoy sorting or tidying toys, learning to pick up individual items and putting them into a box (of course they then enjoy picking them up to take back out again or just emptying the box entirely.
They will now enjoy toys and objects that move and respond to their touch in different ways. Toys that open and close or toys with wheels that can be pushed or rolled are also good.
Less inclined to put things in their mouth. Happy to explore more with their hands
The 7 best toys and personal care products to develop fine motor skills
Developing fine motor skills means developing the hand muscles that control the fingers and thumb. So any activity that helps kids use their hands as they grow is valuable. Here’s how different activities might help your kids.
Tummy time should start when your baby is a day old. Read more about the right age to start tummy time and why here.
Encourages your baby to reach out for different objects, learning to move their hands towards items they can grab and pull them to themselves.
Shop our Heads Up inflatable sensory tummy time play mat that fills with water and engages kids' eyes and hands, making independent tummy time more enjoyable for them (and you!)
Self feeding or baby-led weaning
Great at encouraging babies from a young age to pick up food and put it into their mouths. It encourages them to feel different textures and to improve hand-eye and hand-to-mouth coordination. Plus there are plenty of health benefits to helping them learn to regulate feeding when they're hungry.
Bath time play
A great way for babies to explore new sensations and understand more about how their bodies interact with different surfaces. Pouring and squeezing – and yes, splashing! – all help them develop strength in fingers, thumbs and forearms.
We created the Pebbl to give kids the skills to clean themselves with an easy-to-use silicone bathtime brush. It's the perfect way to get kids using their hands in coordination with their bodies and developing great fine motor skills from a young age.
Learning to brush teeth
This involves a huge amount of dexterity and coordination. Giving little ones the chance to brush their own teeth from a young age helps them practice the Palmar grasp and pen grip and coordinate movements between their hand and their mouth.
There are great products like Marcus & Marcus' Happiteeth toothbrush that give kids a great tool to aid them in developing skills while exercising fine motor skills
Drawing, colouring and mark making
No matter what they’re drawing with (crayons, pencils, pens etc) starting young and giving them the freedom and encouragement to make marks is essential in developing the finer pencil grip skills they will need as they grow up. A great fuss-free tool for this is bath pens and bath crayons.
These bath time crayons from Honeysticks are super natural and we love the chunkiness that helps them learn to draw easily. Plus it's easy to wipe up!
The perfect way to help young children develop forearm strength. Whether it’s making shapes free-hand or using cutters it combines strength with multi-hand coordination to improve a range of finer motor skills.
This classic set from Djeco is a great place to start with playdough, giving your kids a range of tools to push and press.
Threading beads is a particularly fine skill that helps hand-eye coordination in particular while fine-tuning young children’s pincer grip. The intricacy of picking up beads and threading them onto wire also builds great concentration powers as well.
This set of fruit and veg bead threading is particularly fun!