Hand-eye coordination is critical to many essential life skills such as eating and writing. Babies begin demonstrating an ability to grasp objects as soon as they are born, usually with a killer grip on a parent's finger. By around three months, a baby can bat at objects of interest, and then by about five months, a baby can reach for and grab objects. Of course, each baby varies, but this is a rough outline. |
Since hand-eye coordination is so important, how can a parent help a baby develop this skill? As with most skills a baby needs to learn, the key is play. Play is vital for allowing a baby to learn how to reach for and grab objects. First, however, you have to get the baby to pay attention to an object. I started by shaking a rattle or plastic keys when my baby was around four months old. She would follow it with her eyes and then begin grabbing for it. Now, at five months, she can see an object of interest, reach for it, grab it, and bring it to her mouth.
Wrist rattles are also valuable for developing hand-eye coordination. The baby will move his hand, which will cause the rattle to make noise. He will notice the noise and eventually realize that the movement of his hand is causing it (also a lesson in cause and effect). Probably the baby will bring the rattle to his mouth, which provides more practice in gross motor skills. This is a win-win in skill practice for your baby!
Even with a baby as young as four months, blocks can be used to help teach during play. Build a tower for your baby and let him knock it down. He will soon realize the power he has when he reaches for an object and makes contact with it (for my baby, this also works with a full glass of water, but is much messier and tends to ruin my sandwich).
My five-month-old is now working on being able to grasp even smaller objects and bring them to her mouth (note to self - remove all possible choking hazards from playroom). This is a perfect example of the progression of the skill. She will eventually use her hand-eye coordination to pick up tiny objects using her "pincer" grasp, so I am allowing her even now to pick up all sorts of objects. Remember, though, that whatever your baby picks up will go in his mouth. A good rule of thumb is to use a toilet paper tube as a guide - if it fits in the tube, it would also fit in baby's throat. Make sure that all objects are too big for the tube before allowing your baby to play with them.
These are just a few of the many activities you can do with your child to help promote the all-important skill of hand-eye coordination. Remember that babies learn through play, so give yourself permission to sit down and play with a few rattles and build a few towers, all in the pursuit of knowledge!