Have you noticed that most play involves two hands?

Through the ages conventional wisdom figured out the importance of this kind of play without the aid of PET scans and other fancy devices. Now, science verifies what our forefathers (and mothers) have always known. Babies need to play with two hands.

Parents usually wait anxiously for their baby’s first steps. But when their baby’s hands come together purposely, long before walking or even sitting occurs, celebrate this moment too! When babies figure out how to bring the hands together, they learn that there are two sides to the body and both sides are connected.

Once this discovery is made holding toys with two hands soon follows. This brings the toys directly in front of the baby face, which makes it easier to look at. When babies start looking carefully at toys in their immediate visual field, they begin to develop visual attention, which is critical for learning. As your baby uses both hands while playing, both sides of the body send messages up to the brain, which help with neurological organization. The more nerves send messages up the spinal cord and the signals cross from one side of the body to the other, Communication occurs.

Naturally, this helps make the brain more flexible, ready for learning and interacting effectively in the world. Here are some simple two-handed activities that you can play with your baby:

Encouraging hand clapping

Playing “Patty Cake” or  “So Big”

Holding toys that require both hands (large balls, stuffed animals)

Gently rubbing both your baby hands over textured surfaces and shaped objects

Splashing with both hands during bath time

Banging on toy drums (or upturned pots) with both hands.

Singing “Wheels on the bus” or  “Itsy Bitsy Spider” with hand motions.

Asking a children’s librarian for books that teach more hand play games and songs.

As your baby grows and movements become more sophisticated, other hand play games can be taught. You can modify them for the younger child. Play these games whenever you can. Fill up those empty moments at the bus stop, check out line, elevators, before and after stories, or at a restaurant.