When Do Babies Start Reaching for Things?

Within a few days of birth, most babies are already starting to take some notice of the world around them, though their main focus is going to be on Mom. Once their eyesight begins strengthening and developing, they become curious about objects and other living beings. After that comes the desire to touch, and then to hold, things. This is an exciting time of almost daily discovery for babies, and guiding them through it can be a lot of fun. Generally, babies start reaching for things between 3 and 5 months.

Prereaching

Prereaching starts almost from birth, though it may not always look like that's what your baby is doing. Newborn eyesight is often unfocused, and motor control is very undeveloped, but what looks like random arm-waving can be a desire to touch or hold you or any other bright and interesting object within your little one's line of sight. You can encourage this by gently taking your baby's hand when he waves it around or pressing your finger softly into his palm so that he can hold onto it. By about 3 months, your baby will be deliberately reaching for specific things. This is when most parents start to wear their hair tied back and stop wearing large earrings.

Ulnar Grasp

Baby reaching for the toy

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The ulnar grasp is present from birth, when your baby will curl her fingers around yours, but by about 5 months, she will have some control over it. Curling her fingers against her palm will not allow your child to hold very small things, but this is about the time she'll be able to hold a rattle, a teething ring or a small, soft toy. Encourage your baby to explore and develop this skill by leaving interesting objects—especially those that make a small noise—within her easy reach. Offer her things to hold by waving them slowly in front of her or pressing them lightly against her palm. Between 6 and 9 months, she'll be thrilled when she manages to not only grasp what she reaches for, but to transfer it from hand to hand. Make sure you let her know that you're thrilled, too.

Pincer Grip

Somewhere between 9 months and 1 year, your baby will develop the fine motor skills needed to pick up tiny things between his thumb and forefinger, in what is called a pincer grip. This is when babies will go through a boxcar's worth of small, round cereal O's, grape halves, banana slices and cheddar fish, though they are still just as likely to end up on the floor or in their hair as they are to actually be eaten. Encourage this by offering your child all sorts of small edibles as well as baby-safe toys that are small enough to require a pincer grip, but too big to swallow.

Tips

Put all dangerous and sharp things well out of your baby's reach, once she is mobile. Leave one small, inexpensive and unbreakable object within reach and make this is a "No," because part of teaching your child how to hold things is teaching them that there are some things they are not allowed to touch.

Keep objects that are high up, but on furniture that might wobble when baby uses it to pull herself up, safely secured with a bit of earthquake wax. Also called museum wax, this soft putty adheres objects to surfaces without harming either.

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