How to Encourage Motor Development in Infants

Fun activities get your baby moving and prime her for motor milestones.

Gross motor skills use the entire body, including the large muscles of the legs, arms, and core. In contrast, fine motor skills involve smaller movements of the hands, fingers, toes, and feet. Here’s how to develop both during playtime.

Activities for Motor Development in Infants

Pedal her legs. When Baby is 3 months old, lay her on her back, hold her ankles, gently bend her knees into her stomach, and then stretch them out. Make it more fun by saying "in" and "out," singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," and kissing her feet.

Practice grabbing. With your baby on her back, dangle a toy above her to see if she can grasp it. Move it higher, lower, and to the sides. You can also try toys of various shapes so she will learn to form her hands into the best position for grabbing.

Play ball. Sit your baby on an exercise ball and hold her securely by the hips. Tilt the ball slowly in different directions so she can learn to shift her weight, which will strengthen her core and improve her balance. As she gets stronger, you can move her at a slightly faster speed.

Encourage stretching. Help Baby into a sitting position, and put a toy on the floor close enough for her to reach forward and pick it up. Then move it around so she’ll shift and reach to each side to get it. Trying this with different types of toys lets her practice holding multiple shapes and weights. Be sure the toys are safe: If they fit through a toilet-paper roll, they’re too small and could be a choking hazard.

Create obstacles. When your baby starts crawling, generally around 8 months, block her path with a pillow and encourage her to crawl over it. You might need to entice her by holding a toy on the other side of the pillow. Moving on her hands and knees helps your baby strengthen her hip, trunk, arm, and shoulder muscles.

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