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Little fingers love to explore

You’ve probably noticed that your baby is curious about everything – a sign of all the amazing development that’s going on. At around 9 months, their finger skills in particular come on in leaps and bounds. This is partly because the muscles in their hands and fingers are becoming stronger, giving them 10 little tools to poke, prod, push and touch everything in sight. Their rapid brain development that’s happening is also helping, giving them new-found hand-eye coordination that will keep on improving over the months and years to come.

Once their fingers can do some of the exploring you may notice that your baby doesn’t rely on mouthing items as much to find out about their texture and shape. Some continue with the mouth method well into toddlerhood though, as an extra back up!

The next stage – pick-it-up and drop-it!

Babies get to grips with picking up things quickly, but letting go is a little harder. The part of their brain that understands what happens when they let something go takes a little bit of time for them to work out. But once they do, you’re sure to have loads of fun picking things up, and letting them go over and over and over again. So as you bend over to pick something up for the hundredth time, just remember your baby’s happy smiles and squeals are part of them learning how to use their little fingers.

Fun activities for busy baby hands

By around 10 or 11 months, your baby’s hand-eye coordination will probably be developing well enough for them to pick up some fairly small items and put them down intentionally. If your baby isn’t quite there yet, don’t worry – they’ll get there in their own time. 

These activities are great for encouraging hand and finger skills, and hopefully giving you both some giggles too:

  • Explore fabric or board books, and books with flaps together. Let your baby turn the pages and point at the pictures.
  • Give them some simple shape-sorting toys or some big stacking blocks that fit together easily.
  • Roll a soft ball towards them and help them learn how to roll it back.
  • Let them play with sand – touching it, pouring it and digging in it.

Baby fingers and baby food

Finger foods

Babies love to use their fingers to feed themselves – baby independence! Finger foods help keep babies occupied at mealtimes, giving you a chance to have a few bites of your own. Your baby may even try to reach for your food from time to time. But their nutritional needs are still very different from an adult’s, so try to guide them gently back to their own.

Healthy food ideas include simple fruit and veg sticks, steaming any hard veggies and allowing them to cool first. Rice cakes are popular, and toast triangles are filling and fun to get to grips with. We’ve got some great baby finger foods that are perfect for snacks and mealtimes too.

Until your baby can use a spoon well, any self-feeding will naturally involve their fingers. They may want to try a spoon though, just don’t expect them to know how to get it in their mouth! While they’re still practicing that part of the puzzle, keep plenty of bibs and cloths handy. It’s also good to keep a camera around for those comedy peas-up-the-nose snaps!

Switching from bottle to beaker

With their improved hand-eye coordination and finger movements, your baby can start learning to hold and drink their baby milk from a beaker. Around 6 months is a great time to make the switch from a bottle, as a stepping stone towards eventually drinking from a cup, which should happen by the time your baby is a year old. Using a free-flow beaker before then will help them learn to sip their milk or water, which is better for their teeth than sucking.

And finally, left or right?

Your baby is likely to use both hands equally well for their first 2 or 3 years. Only once they’ve had plenty of practice will they start to show signs of being left or right-handed. For now, just offer plenty of fun and games to keep all 10 fingers busy. That said, they probably won’t need much encouragement in that department!

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