Eye-Hand Coordination: Creating an Athlete from Day 1!
Your infant’s hands barely move so this topic has little relevance to you-‐right?
Wrong! Moments after that beautiful bundle was placed in your arms, the
components for an ace pitcher or star tennis player begin to develop. Really.
Numerous studies have shown that infants search out their mother’s face soon after birth and work hard to stay focused on that visage for as long as possible. Some researchers have even documented that little smiles (previously attributed to gas) are actually the newborn’s way of trying to engage with the parent and sustain visual attention with the adult. Amazing!?
The human body is hard wired to help us perform our very best in the world. So it
makes perfect sense that one of the first things that happens is using the eyes to connect with the world and more importantly seek out attention from the people who will feed and protect us.
The eyes need to direct all of our movements. When vision is coupled with any motor activity, there is a more efficient and effective result. Think of trying to put an earring on without a mirror or trying to do something in the dark. It gets done eventually but it takes a lot longer. Or think of the child in the outfield planning to catch the ball but the eyes are looking somewhere else…
Along with having an intrinsic drive to look at Mom and Dad’s faces, the infant is
hard wired to turn the head in concert with an extended hand. This is called the Fencing Reflex. Each time the baby’s head turns to the side, the arm extends slightly. If the arm is extended, the head follows. This allows the infant to gaze at the hand soon after birth. This reflex fades as the baby begins to move the arms voluntarily. Before the reflex disappears it helps build that eye hand connection so important for directing all our activity.
Visual attention is the key not only to strong motor development but learning as
well. Keeping your baby gazing at you and the objects you dangle throughout
waking hours will help build the visual focus necessary for later eye-‐hand activities.
Here are some ways you can play with your baby to help encourage visual
attention and visual tracking:
Get “in your infant’s face.” This means positioning your head somewhere between
10 -‐24 inches away to talk to and smile at your baby. Don’t be afraid to make funny faces. This will intrigue and delight your newborn and will extend the visual attention.
Dangle toys and objects in front of the infant. Slowly move toys from the left to the
right side. This starts the baby’s work on visual tracking.
When changing the baby or when doing other floor time activities (yes floor time should start while your baby is still in the cradle!) gently move the arm out to the side and see if the head turns and the gaze follows.
Gently rub your baby’s hands over textured surfaces and shaped objects. Tactile stimulation helps build early precepts for later visual spatial reasoning (like figuring out where to run on the soccer field).
When talking to you newborn, always have your face in close proximity. That way your baby will link the sounds of your voice with your face. Auditory and visual attention will be increased!
When your baby is around, put away the iphone and other electronic devises. Give your baby 100% of your attention!