My daughter, Sasha, has a knack for pushing my buttons (like the time she used my new toothbrush to clean our dog's teeth). But recently, she's become adept at pushing other types of buttons, such as the tiny red panic one on my car keys -- right in the middle of a busy restaurant. Lesson learned: Don't underestimate your child's nimble little fingers.
After your child's first birthday, her manual dexterity will really take off. She'll learn to build block towers, scribble with a crayon, and use a spoon. These developments have as much to do with a child's brain as with her hands. "As a toddler's mind matures, she'll start to use her hands differently," says Nasreen Talib, MD, a pediatrician at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Missouri. Babies use their mouth to explore objects. But as your child's motor skills improve, her hands become a more important tool. She'll use them to discover how a toy feels, what it does, and how she can control it.
Your child's increasing gross motor skills also contribute to his ability to use his hands. "It's hard for a child to manipulate anything well until he can keep himself upright without losing his balance," says Victoria Nackley, assistant professor of occupational therapy at Utica College, in New York. Get ready for these breakthroughs -- and be ready to lend a helping hand.