When Will My Baby Hold a Rattle?
Even before your baby was born, he or she was exploring the world around them and developing their senses. Now that they've arrived, there is even more to discover. Everything around them is helping them to develop, from learning the art of thinking and understanding to muscle control and hand-eye co-ordination. One of the most wonderful first moments to experience with your newborn is when they grasp on so tightly to your finger that it seems they'll never let go. If they can do this from birth, why can't they pick up other objects at this age? Just like every other milestone for your baby, a complex series of developments need to take place before they're ready to actually choose what they want to hold.
The Road To Holding a Rattle
At birth your baby has a reflex action to close their fist when anything touches their palm. It's not a conscious action or something they have to think about; it just happens and it doesn't matter what it is they are grasping. In most babies you can see this reflex in action from birth to eight to twelve weeks old. At this point, your baby's brain has developed to enable them to make more conscious movements and they are starting to think more about their actions.
At around three months you might notice your baby starting to study their hands very intently as they open and close them repeatedly. From the way they are studying them, you could think they are the most interesting things they have ever seen. They are starting to understand that they are in control of these amazing objects and they do what they want them to do. At this stage it's very possible that they will begin reaching out or swiping at things that are in their field of vision.
Hand-eye co-ordination continues to develop over the next few months and you'll notice many changes taking place. Between four and eight months, as your baby begins to understand the relationship between their thinking and their movement more and more, they'll be able to pick up large objects much more easily. Rattles, colourful building blocks and fist-sized toys are perfect playthings. Although they can pick them up easily, it may take a bit more practice before putting them back down becomes second nature.
How You Can Encourage Your Baby to Hold Things
You can start to encourage and foster your baby's development of hand-eye co-ordination in lots of ways. Play gyms with overhead toy arches encourage baby to explore what's above them with their hands and the same applies with a toy bar on their bouncer seat or pushchair. Building blocks are great chunky items for them to hold.
What Should I Watch Out For?
As always, every new milestone brings something new to think about. Picking up objects is great fun for your baby, but you will soon find that most things that make it into their hands also then make it into their mouth! This isn't them being hungry or wanting a taste; this is their way of exploring the object. Between four and eight months or so, they have much greater control of their mouth, tongue and lips than they have of their hands. They also have many, many more nerve endings in their mouth, so it is natural that any object they want to explore heads straight for their mouth. So, the word of warning here is that you should check everywhere your baby can access for small objects that they could put in their mouth. Also, if you have older children, keep their toys out of baby's reach, as they may well contain small pieces that could present a choking risk to your baby.
What Comes Next?
Their grasp will improve over the coming months and you are likely to notice sooner or later (between nine and twelve months), what is known as the 'pincer grasp' developing. This is where your baby can pick up even tiny objects between just thumb and forefinger. With this amount of control over their actions, it certainly won't be long until they are throwing too, so do watch out for flying objects sometime soon!
Milestones, however big or small, are hugely exciting for both of you. All babies develop at very different rates and if your baby hasn't reached the same milestones as other people's babies the chances are there is nothing to worry about. However, if you are concerned that your child is very late in reaching one or a number of milestones then it is sensible to seek further professional advice from either your health visitor or GP. We have more information on the variable rates of development in babies here.