From Pillsbury Dough Boy to Strong Hands

Have you ever noticed how toddlers have little chubby hands. Usually by the end of preschool their hands have a more distinct look with well-defined muscles and joints. This occurs because the many muscles that make up most of the sub-skin structures in the hands haven’t developed yet.

That’s why it is important to encourage your child to play with all kinds of objects and move around a lot. When a toddler still crawls on the floor, the hands weight bear as they push down on the floor. This strengthens all the hand and finger muscles.

Finding safe objects of varying sizes and shapes for the toddler to manipulate is a great way to start activating those growing muscles. Each time the hand wraps around a new shape, the muscles have to work a little differently. This leads to strengthening new muscle fibers. When the toddler has many new experiences, lots of muscle fibers begin to grow.

When your baby has become a master of “letting go,” the fingers begin to move separately. Initially all five fingers work as a single unit. You can help your baby with this difficult part of fine motor development by encouraging pointing. You may even gently move the pointer or index finger to a straight position while the other fingers stay fisted. Pointing and poking can be incorporated in story time and language games as well. As your baby’s fingers get stronger, you might even have the baby help push buttons, like turning on the coffee maker in the morning.

Here are some games that help strengthen the hands:

Holding objects of different sizes and shapes
Feeling a variety of textures with open hands
Picking up and dropping toys such as blocks
Pointing at pictures in books
Pointing at Mommy’s or Daddy’s eyes, nose, etc.
Play “Beep” when your baby pushes your nose
Hand play games such as “Open Shut Them…Give your hands a Clap!”
Counting baby’s fingers-holding each finger separately with each number
Poking and pushing buttons and objects (many toys have these features)
Opening plastic lids off empty containers