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Improving Babies' Motor Skills

Posted Jul 23 2009 10:08pm

Gross motor skills involve the use of large muscles in the legs and arms to create an action like jumping, clapping and throwing. Fine motor skills involve using small movements, like fingers grasping a piece of food, pushing toes to move toward a toy, rotating wrists and fingers to manipulate an object, and positioning the lips and tongue to babble and blow raspberries. You’ll see a very rapid development of both the gross and fine motor skills during the first year of life. Following are exercises that can improve your baby’s motor skills.

0-3 Months

Baby sit-ups. When your baby is alert and happy, lay him on his back. His hands will grab your finger or thumb reflexively; then pull him up slowly so as not to jerk his head. (You may see your pediatrician do this to check out the strength of your baby’s muscles.)

Hug-a-baby.
Set your baby on your lap comfortably. Gently cross his arms over his chest, as though he is hugging himself. With baby balanced on your lap, gently pull his arms back as if opening them up for a huge hug from Daddy or Grandma.

3-6 Months

The “Bicycle.” Spread out a soft, fuzzy blanket and lay your baby down on her back. Hold each of her feet in each of your hands and “bicycle” your baby’s legs and feet. Vary the speed of the imaginary “bicycle ride,” always keeping in mind your baby’s fragility. Now, hold your baby’s hands. Gently move her wrists back and forth.

Play time.
Sit on the floor with your baby on your lap facing you. Support your baby under her arms. Sing a Mother Goose rhyme, favorite song, or even just the ABCs. Gently bounce your baby with the cadence and rhythm of the song. When Humpty Dumpty falls down, pretend to let your baby fall down (gently, of course).

7-8 Months

Toy time. Using a favorite toy or one that makes sound, grab your baby’s attention. Place the toy slightly out of reach. Depending on where you set the toy, your baby may use gross motor skills to turn his body at the trunk, use core muscles to reach up high, and shift his weight in order to grab the toy.

Dance. Hold your baby on your hip and move to some music that is not playing too loudly. Take his little hand and move it to the beat or spin slowly. Face-to-face interaction in this mobile way will surely have both of you laughing and bonding. Don’t forget to tickle his little belly or just under his chin. As your baby is able to stand on his own, hold his hands and try some simple moves back and forth, or just bop baby up and down on your legs. As with all things baby-related, easy does it.

9-12 Months

Cereal fun.
Sit on the floor with your baby and put some low-sugar dry cereal in a paper cup. Pour the cereal from the cup into an empty cup and repeat several times until you think your baby can try it. Of course, she will spill the cereal, eat it, and transfer it imperfectly, but that’s okay. Give it a lot of time and practice.

Pull-up time. A coffee table or couch is at the right level for baby to put her little hands on and attempt to pull herself to a stand. Sometimes you can help her by boosting her bottom and steadying her legs. The more you encourage and aid in her movement attempts, the happier your baby will be, and the more delighted you will be!

Adapted from
Boosting Your Baby’s Brain Power, by Holly Engel-Smothers and Susan M. Heim, ©2008.




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