When you think of reading with a baby or toddler, you probably think of language development (and cuddling, of course!). Reading is certainly a language powerhouse, but did you know it’s also an opportunity for your little one to practice and refine his fine motor skills? When your child interacts with a book (even if he’s simply holding it), it gets those little fingers, hands, and wrists working.
Books support fine motor development through:
Turning pages: Around months 12 to 14, your baby may begin to turn the pages of a book, although he’ll probably grab several pages at a time. The more he handles books, the easier it will become for him to turn pages. By the time he turns 3, your toddler will likely master the art of grabbing and turning just one page at a time.
Pointing: Pointing to pictures or words as you read a book encourages your baby to do the same. Why is this beneficial? Pointing has links to language development, for one. He points to show you something (joint attention) or ask for an explanation, which is one way he can communicate with you. But pointing also flexes those finger muscles. Stretching the finger muscles to point can further refine the movements that will help him turn pages or hold a pencil.
Interacting: Many books for babies and toddlers have interactive pages, like built-in keyboards, flaps to lift, or clothes to button. Interactive books are perfect for getting your baby’s hands and fingers moving in different-than-usual ways. They can also keep your baby focused on the task at hand by keeping him engaged.
Hand-eye coordination: Hand-eye coordination not only involves the hands and eyes – it incorporates arms, too. That’s because the eyes, hands, and arms must all work together to make more precise movements. Your baby practices refining this skill as he points to words or pictures in a book, picks up a book, puts a book away, or attempts to turn pages.
Inspiring creative activities: Books can inspire creative activities that promote fine motor development, too. Your toddler may want to trace his favorite character from a book or attempt to draw a favorite scene. Some books also include writing activities, like dry-erase letter tracing, or other fine motor tasks like placing stickers on the pages to fill out a scene.
Sensory development: Touch-and-feel books, board books, and any book with unique textures on its pages support sensory development. Your baby will become more accustomed to feeling new textures as he handles sensory-focused books. This can, in turn, help him feel more comfortable with using a variety of toys that target fine motor skills, like clay, sand, and play dough, which have textures that take time for some toddlers to get used to.
Need some ideas to make the most out of daily reading time with your little one? Take a peek at this article for reading tips.