From closed hands to fine motor skills

Have you noticed that newborns have their hands clenched? In the first months of life it is normal that a baby has his hands closed. Little by little, as the weeks go by, he will begin to open them.

A baby’s hands play an important role in his development because they are parts of his body that they will discover from a young age. “First he will observe them, then he will open and close them, and he will make movements as if he wanted to reach objects”, explains Belén Hernández Zamora, an instructor at the Kangu Stimulation Center.

For the preschool education graduate, even though a newborn can’t pick up objects, if you caress his palm, he’ll try to grab your finger. He can even squeeze it tightly for a few seconds. This grip is known as the palmar grasp reflex.

By the second month of age, finger movement will still be limited and his hands may still be clenched into tight fists. However, “His hands will draw his attention more and more. He may spend a lot of time trying to move them in front of his face where he can see them. After many tries, he will likely be able to get them into his mouth”, according to the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP).

Development of the fine motor skills

During his first few months of age, a baby is growing and maturing in various ways. “If you notice that he does not move, that he is rigid and stiff, and does not open his hands, you should consult a specialist to rule out neurodevelopmental problems”, says Belén Hernández, an expert in early and prenatal stimulation.

Visual tracking, grasping and manipulating games, among others, will help babies develop fine motor skills.

During your baby’s first three months, it is recommended that you open and close his hands gently, massage the palm in a circular motion, open each little finger and caress his little hands with soft and rough textures.

Similarly, so that babies do not have their hands closed for a long time, UNICEF recommends:

  • Rub the newborn’s hands with your fingers, from the pinky finger to the wrist.
  • With your thumb and forefinger, take the baby’s fingers one at a time from the base and slide to the tip, giving a gentle tug at the end.
  • To help him open his hands, rub the base of his hand outward with a brush or towel, extending his thumb.
  • If he opens his hand wide, but can’t hold an object, help him by curling his fingers around it.
  • Place a rattle in his hand and help him shake it several times so he tries to imitate the movement. Check that he doesn’t hit himself.
  • Get him used to being on his stomach for a few minutes so that he can tear or scratch the covers.

Stimulate him according to his rhythm

As your baby grows, you must motivate him to do new things, but always through games and respecting his rhythm.

“At first, when he can pick up an object of his interest, the baby will have a raking grasp, that is, he will grab things by opening his whole hand and occupying all five fingers”, says Hernández Zamora.

To stimulate fine motor skills and help your baby pincer grasp, the expert suggests:

  • Between four and six months: place toys in front of his face that attract his attention to make him take them with his hands; you can give him a rattle so that when he moves it, he makes a sound.
  • Between seven and nine months: play with a big ball and invite him to throw it with his hands. Offer toys to pass from one hand to the other and try to get him to pull ribbons from a box.
  • Between 10 and 12 months: make him put objects in and out of a bucket or a wide-mouthed jar. Have him put seeds into a small-mouth jar. Let your baby play with modeling clay or play dough.

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Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara

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