During their first 2 months, babies excitedly stare and wave their arms at objects dangling within reach. By 3 months, they can usually touch such objects, but they cannot yet grab and hold on unless an object is placed in their hands, because of limited eye—hand coordination
By 4 months, infants sometimes grab, but their timing is off: They close their hands too early or too late. Finally, but 6 months, with a concentrated, deliberate stare, most babies can reach, grab, and grasp almost any object that is of the right size. Some can even transfer an object from one hand to the other. Almost all can hold a bottle, shake a rattle, and yank a sister’s braids. Toward the end of the first year and throughout the second, finger skills improve as babies master the pincer movement (using thumb and forefinger to pick up tiny objects) and self-feeding (first with hands, then fingers, then utensils) (Ho, 2010). (See At About This Time.)
As with gross motor skills, fine motor skills are shaped by culture and opportunity. For example, when given “sticky mittens” (with Velcro) that allow grabbing, infants master hand skills sooner than usual. Their perception advances as well (Libertus et al., 2010; Soska et al., 2010). As with the senses, each motor skill expands the baby’s cognitive awareness.In the second year, grasping becomes more selective. Toddlers learn when not to pull at a sister’s braids or Mommy’s earrings, or Daddy’s glasses.