During your baby’s first year, he discovered his hands and learned he could use them. He started crawling and you were probably two steps ahead of him, making sure the dog food was out of reach and closing the bathroom door to keep him from unraveling the toilet paper.
Now that he is a year old, his play will become more focused as his hand-related fine motor skills blossom and he can better manipulate objects. This play helps secure the foundation for life skills in his not-so-distant future, like using utensils, getting dressed, and writing his first letters.
Below we’ll take a look at this development from months 12-24 through the lens of three favorite activities: Play, drawing, and looking at books.
Your baby builds his first towers. They’re only 2 blocks high, but it’s no small feat. It reflects his improving hand-eye coordination and ability to pick up objects and release them gently and precisely. If you give him a circular container with a lid that’s not too tight, he can pull the lid off. This shows he is perfecting his grasping skills and learning how much force is required for different tasks. He won’t be able to put the lid back on yet, so get ready for his new favorite game: Taking the lid off and asking you to put it back on, endlessly!
Your baby can hold a crayon and use it to make a few marks on a piece of paper. This artwork may not be frameable, but it demonstrates hand-eye coordination and learning how hard he has to press the crayon on the paper to create a mark.
If you give your baby a book with thin pages, he turns 4-5 pages at a time. Even though he’s missing half the story, he’s practicing the difficult tasks of grasping and manipulating a page—one of the thinnest objects in everyday life.
Increased hand-eye coordination, precision and strength mean your baby can finally put those lids back on the circular containers and play the pull-off, put-on game all by himself! Your new role is cheering when he successfully inserts a circle into a shape puzzle and looks at you proudly (the other shapes come later).
Your baby begins to scribble and use his entire arm to draw lines on a large pad of paper. Keep an eye on your little Picasso—the wall is a tempting surface for this type of art! A bonus move at this stage is that he can rip a piece of paper in half after he scribbles on it.
After months of perfecting the 2-block tower, your baby can now stack 3-4 blocks. This is a big step, considering the care and accuracy involved in building higher and higher towers. He can also string beads with medium sized holes onto a firm cable, and remove and replace lids on different shaped containers. Something he will love to do at this stage is unwrap small packages, which shows different fine motor skills working together as he grasps, pulls and rips.
Your baby will try to imitate vertical lines, although they will be shaky.
Your baby can now grasp 2-3 thin pages.
During this stage your baby graduates to towers of up to 6 blocks, and he can complete a basic shape puzzle (circle, triangle, square). A game he loves is rolling a ball back and forth with you. This game not only displays his fine motor skills, it also shows how he is learning to use his body and hands together. Oh, and he can turn round doorknobs now, so closing the bathroom door won’t keep him away from the toilet paper anymore.
Your budding artist now tries to imitate horizontal circular, and semi-circular lines—the building blocks of writing letters. Although the “dog” he draws still looks more like a blob, his scribbles become more defined. Towards the end of this stage he may be able to fold one of his drawings in half if you show him how to do it.
At last, your baby can grasp one thin page at a time, finally getting the full story!
There are many changes during these months of your baby’s life that fill you with wonder. We hope that shining a light on this fine motor development helps you appreciate the truly incredible (and important!) things he is doing with his hands.