Your baby’s hands get into everything as she grows because they’re the best tools for exploring the world around her. Her hands and fingers help her feel textures, look at objects more closely, and play.
Hand strength and dexterity are two important causes of all those little movements. Here’s how both work:
So Many Muscles!
Your little one’s hands are tiny, but they contain a lot of bones and muscles! Each hand holds 27 bones, including 14 bones just in the fingers. There are also more than 30 muscles in each hand that allow her fingers to point, her hand to grasp, and her wrist to rotate. The more she uses her hands and fingers, the stronger her muscles will get, which can lead to more complex movements and better control.
Each of these bones and muscles works together for a common purpose: Dexterity. Dexterity refers to your baby’s ability to work with her hands for different tasks, like holding a bottle, turning the pages of a book, or snuggling her favorite blanket.
Dexterity development begins in babyhood and continues to develop as your baby’s fine motor skills improve. Eventually, her dexterous skills will lead to accomplishing big tasks like feeding herself, tying her shoes, and doing her homework.
Hands, Fingers, and Development
Your baby’s hands and fingers are some of the most important tools she’ll need as she continues to grow and learn. Dexterity affects fine motor development and your baby’s ability to fine-tune what she does with her hands and fingers to have more control over her grasp.
Fine motor skills are ones your baby will continuously build upon as she grows, especially with your support. Here’s what fine motor development looks like in your baby’s first year, and here’s how it looks in her second year.
Dexterity and hand strength have benefits beyond building fine motor skills, though; they can eventually help your baby sit up, stand, and learn!
Make a fist and squeeze it as tight as you can. You can feel not just your hand, fingers, and wrist muscles working, but also your arm muscles! When your baby grabs onto a toy and holds it tight, she’s building strength in all these muscles, too. In fact, even small movements in her fingers and hands, like pointing at a picture or using her thumb and forefinger to hold a pacifier, build dexterity, muscles, and strength. This will come in handy when it’s time for her to sit, crawl, and stand.
Gross motor skills and coordination
Hands, fingers, and wrists also coordinate with the movement of your baby’s arms and what she sees to give her a full range of motion. As we mentioned, when your baby exercises her hand muscles, she’s usually working her arm muscles, too, as well as making her hands and arms work together to carry out a task. As she does this, her eyes focus on the task, improving hand-eye coordination.
In other words, she’s building gross motor and coordination skills along the way. As she becomes more coordinated, she’ll use her hands and arms to roll herself over, push herself up into a sitting position, or pull up to stand. Building dexterity and hand strength require a lot of brainpower that will, in time, lead to more in-sync body movements.
(Fun fact: Gross motor skills also support fine motor development!)
The more your baby can do with her hands, the more she can play and explore. Different toys and objects require different grasps and manipulations. Building dexterity can open many more doors to play for your baby, which also means more paths for learning.