Hold and Reach

Encourage Infant Hand and Arm Use

You make a difference in your baby’s development!

Most babies are unable to reach for objects in the first 3 months of life. If you have participated in Parent Trust’s developmental screening program and have done a 4-month screening, you may remember an activity of holding a dangling toy over your infant to see if they reach for it. But even before that, in the 2-month screening, we practice putting a toy in baby’s hand to encourage holding objects.

A recent study found that most caregivers only start encouraging hand use after babies learn to reach. The study suggests that we can actually encourage reaching and holding (and thus hand and arm use) before a baby is attempting to reach on their own. Two suggested approaches emerged from the study: 

1) Create more opportunities for baby to watch you manipulating objects. We already know that babies can copy facial expressions soon after they are born. This study suggests that when babies see parents using their hands they will imitate those actions. Putting your baby in a position in which they can view you doing daily activities can encourage this imitation.

2) Stimulate baby to reach and hold during the first few months.
I often encourage parents to gently swipe a small toy up and down their baby’s arm and hand, before dangling it, if the baby hasn’t yet started reaching.

The study’s authors suggest an activity in which you first place baby’s hands on a smooth surface, and then on a rough surface, to induce an awareness of the differences in how grasping these surfaces would feel.
Another activity is offering a finger for the baby to hold and smiling to reinforce the connection between touch and visual stimulus.
A third involved shining a flashlight in a dimly lit room just above the baby’s chest to stimulate use of arms as baby attempts to grab the light.

Your baby’s first few months are filled with opportunities to learn from you, their first teacher!

study press release: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/07/210708135335.htm