Your Baby's Hand Control

When born, your baby's hands may be nothing more than clenched fists--but by the end of the year, expect to see him/her stacking toys and turning pages. Check out this month-by-month guide to your baby's hand control.

Baby hand in big hand
Photo: phloxii/Shutterstock

Newborn to 1 month

Your newborn's hands remain tightly clenched during her first month. But pry open her tiny fist with your finger and you'll be surprised by her mighty grip. This is just a reflex -- your baby won't be able to deliberately hold objects for a while. And though they fascinate her, she hasn't yet discovered that her hands are a part of her body. At around 6 weeks she'll grasp one hand with the other and try to pry it open herself.

2 to 3 months

At about 8 weeks, your baby's hands are beginning to slowly unfold. He enjoys batting at his mobile and other dangling toys. Give him a rattle to shake--the noise that he creates helps him realize that his hands are attached to him. He'll celebrate by using them to stick anything you give him into his mouth.

4 months

Your baby's swiping is more purposeful around 4 months. Her ability to reach is evolving even further as she begins to awkwardly gather toys using a two-handed embrace. She also starts midline play -- playing with her hands in front of her body.

5 months

By now your baby's hands are open most of the time, allowing him to explore the world through touch. His grasp is getting stronger now, and he's able to hold a toy in his fingers and the palm of his hand. This helps him transfer toys from hand to hand. Toward the end of the month, he begins playing with blocks.

6 months

Now that your baby can hold something between her finger and thumb, the world has truly opened up to her. But she can't manipulate her fingers quite yet. She starts working toward this skill by using her whole hand to clumsily rake in and attempt to pick up objects. She's learning to release objects, too. Another fun milestone this month: Your baby may imitate your clapping.

7 to 8 months

Your baby is now able to feed himself messily with his fingers and can probably hold a sippy cup -- although drinking from it might be a struggle.

9 to 10 months

Your baby may begin to point with her index finger. She probably isn't pointing at anything in particular, but the fact that she can make this motion indicates that she'll soon be able to perform the pincer grasp -- the ability to pick up tiny objects with her thumb and forefinger. This skill, attained around the tenth month, is the culmination of small motor development in the first year.

11 to 12 months

Your baby continues to refine his pincer grasp this month. He'll practice by stacking toys, manipulating blocks, and turning the chunky pages of a baby book. As he gets better at it, you'll need to be more alert -- invading cabinets and upsetting trash cans are par for the course. He's also beginning to wrap his hands around his bottle and utensils. He may feed himself with a spoon by a year, but don't fret if it takes him a little while longer.

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