Whenever we use our hands and fingers, fine motor skills come into play. Fine motor skills involve the small muscles that control the hand and fingers. Having weak fine motor skills may mean that, in the earliest years, the baby will have difficulty learning to feed themselves, grabbing toys and buttoning or zipping their clothes. In children, they might have trouble with writing neatly, tying their shoelaces or using a pair of scissors. 

When it comes to newborns, playing and moving in different positions will help build strength and coordination, enhance reflexes, as well as provide input to the sensory systems. It’s important to engage in activities that will strengthen their fine motor skills and little muscles! Fine motor skills will develop and improve as they move through childhood.

Here are developmental activities to do with your newborn baby

Tummy time

For the youngest babies, the best place to begin and gain motor skills experience is on the floor. During tummy time, babies gain important sensory input along with movement experience which helps to strengthen neck and shoulder muscles, hand-eye coordination and will help with learning to reach and pivot – which assists with crawling. Tummy time can begin from two weeks old.

Begin by placing your newborn tummy down on your chest or across your lap so they can get used to this position. Try to do this daily,  just after changing your baby’s nappy. From two to three months, aim to do three sessions of tummy time a day, for 5 minutes each time. 

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Carrying and wearing

Putting your newborn in a carrier on your chest isn’t just great for keeping your hands free – it’s a great way to provide tactile and other sensory input. Babies can try to hold their heads up in this vertical position while being supervised. This also helps with elongation and strengthening of the neck and back muscles.

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Music and singing

Singing to babies and playing music is not only great for calming and comforting but may also help them to distinguish different types of auditory input (e.g. telling the difference between mom and dad’s voices and when someone is singing a song). Music is also great during tummy time to encourage babies to turn their heads from one side to another.

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Simple toys

Simple toys such as rattles, soft balls and stuffed animals are great for getting the baby’s visual attention. Play mats with dangling toys and arches are perfect for this, too! As time goes on, it will also strengthen the baby’s fingers and hands, assisting with improving their grip. The baby’s gaze will eventually follow their grasp to look at what they’re holding – the beginning of hand-eye coordination.

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Bath and lotion massage

Bath time is another great opportunity to engage in stimulating activities with your newborn. The gentle touch of mom or dad’s hand or a washcloth will contribute to tactile input, giving the baby a positive relationship with touch. It also helps with calming and soothing, improved weight gain, digestion and bowel movements. 

Using baby oil or lotion, glide your hands gently over your baby’s skin and softly manipulate your baby’s ankles, wrists and fingers. Make the experience more reassuring for your baby by talking softly, humming or playing music.

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