Hand-eye coordination (babies)

Hand-eye coordination (babies)

It’s a sunny day and you’re feeling a sense of achievement that you’ve made it around the supermarket without too much baby drama. As you’re placing baby back in her car seat, a sudden hand swipe catches you by surprise and your favourite sunglasses clatter to the ground. Yes, your baby’s hand-eye coordination has really come on – as you pick up the bits of your designer glasses!

As baby grows, hand-eye coordination will affect her ability to colour, draw basic strokes and pictures, write by hand, catch a ball, swing a bat and hit a ball, create art, do a jigsaw, tie shoe laces, build with blocks, thread a needle, use scissors etc.

Good to know about your baby’s hand-eye development

From three 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 try to pick them up. She may not be able to grasp them, so she’ll just bat at them. If you put a toy in her hand she may be able to hold it for a few seconds.

Between three and six months, having not yet mastered the correct sequence for grasping, baby may close her fist before she reaches the object. Practise this slowly giving your baby plenty of time to get the hang of it.

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

At six months your baby starts to hone her hand-eye coordination. She will move an object toward herself, and will start passing objects from one hand to the other. She will be able to direct a bottle into the mouth or grasp at objects freely. Keep potentially hazardous objects out of her reach, and childproof your home.

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 baby’s reach as they may have small parts which are a choking hazard for infants.

Claphandies PlayTips to help your baby develop their hand-eye coordination

Pick-it-up fun
Hand-eye coordination is an important skill your child will use every day for the rest of her life. To help develop this, play fun games with your child. Keep her age, skill level and attention span in mind when deciding on the right game to play.

A baby gym is great fun for your baby at three to four months. She will still be flat on her back at this stage, but as she lies on a comfy mat she can reach out to the colourful mobiles hanging above her.

From nine to 12 months your baby can pick up objects with little effort now. Once she has something, she may hand it to you, or drop it just to get you to 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. But watch out she may not always be on target!


Quacking good fun

In our PlayLabs we really enjoy our rubber duck game. Each parent takes a duck and the aim is for baby to reach out and grasp the duck. Smaller babies lie on their back and simply reach for the duck or bat it.

Ball games

Balls or rolling objects are a great way to practise hand-eye especially for older babies. Find a small ball and start by rolling the ball to one another on the floor. As baby begins to crawl you can play some gentle hockey by passing the ball back and forth and watch baby scamper after it.

Where’s the scarf?

In the PlayLabs we pay a game where we hide a scarf in a tube and encourage the babies to reach for the scarves as they move down the tube. The tighter you compress the scarf the quicker it’ll travel down the tube. When trying this at home, use an empty kitchen roll core with a brightly coloured scarf.

Making a splash

Float a suitable toy in the bath and encourage baby to grasp it, supervising all the time. As they get older during bath time have two bowls so they can pour from one to another.

Drop it

Picking up toys and dropping them again is fascinating for babies. Not only does the game equal long stretches of entertainment for babies (have you ever seen a baby tire of the “put it in and take it out” again game?) but the skills involved in picking up and letting go of an object are very important.

Selecting an object or toy of interest requires a lot of concentration on baby’s part and she is practising the ability to choose. Grasping that object requires fine motor skills (using the small muscles in the fingers), and gross motor skills (using the big muscles of the arm) to hold tightly onto the object selected. Then, dropping the object on, or into something else requires hand-eye coordination as they consciously send signals from the brain to the fingers to let it go. That really is a lot of effort for a little baby!

Encourage this by giving her smaller objects to drop into larger ones. Small plastic containers can be picked up and dropped into a large metal mixing bowl or pot, and baby will enjoy trying to stack and sort them as well. Help her sort by colours, sizes and shapes and clap as she drops them noisily into the bowl.

Enjoy and appreciate when your baby grasps and drops something again and again, she’s learning and practising her new skills. Introduce toys that help her to learn cause and effect, such as a squeaky duck, drums and “push button toys”.

Reference: ‘Developmental Milestones: grasping’ Baby Centre babycentre.co.uk

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