BABY'S HANDS: USEFUL EVERY DAY FOR A LIFETIME.
GROW YOUR MAGNIFICENT CHILD
BABY’S HANDS: USEFUL EVERY DAY FOR A LIFETIME: Baby’s hand use and manual development.
Baby’s OMSDEP: Her hand use and manual development intentions:
To use her hands to pick up, hold, and examine objects that interest her.
Baby Picks Up:
During this level of development baby picks up objects when she wants to and can hold them tightly. When she picks up objects at this level baby uses her whole hand. By the end of this level she will be able to pick-up objects using one finger and her thumb in the same way as an adult usually picks up a pin, flower stem, pencil or marble.
During this period frequently hand baby objects that she can look at, decide to take from you, reach out to, and take from you. When you pass objects to baby, rather than put them directly into her hands, encourage her to reach a little further up, down or to the left or right each time. This helps to gradually and naturally develop her ability to control how she uses her arms and shoulders to move her hands to the place where she wishes to pick up or put down an object.
Baby will enjoy putting the various objects you hand to her through her scientific identification tests while she benefits developmentally by moving them about in her hands. Tell her the name of objects you hand to her and describe them well, as you will be adding to her language, listening and speaking skills by doing that. There is more about extending her language skills in this way in Level 3 of “BABY LEARNS TO SPEAK AND SING. Baby’s language and speech development” (Chapter 17). You can give her every safe object in the house to examine during this time and greatly expand her handling, knowledge and language skills. You and baby can go through the kitchen cupboards together; the wardrobe, jewellery box (with care), living room display items and any other collections of objects you have at home that are a convenient size for baby to handle. Ideally you will give her smaller and smaller objects to hold over the coming weeks and months but care must be taken as she will certainly attempt to place some of those objects into her mouth and they could be swallowed or inhaled.
Ten times each day sit down with baby and, one by one hand her ten objects that she can take from you. After about 4 weeks hand her the first five of the objects and then, with clean hands, give her five smaller objects such as pieces of coconut flour bread, small soft vegetable pieces, or other food which she can pick-up using her finger and thumb rather than her whole hand grasp. If you wish, the five small objects can be placed on a plate or tray in front of baby for a short time to give her an opportunity to pick them up. You can also demonstrate to her how you can pick the objects up between finger and thumb and place them in your mouth. The finger and thumb grip is sometimes referred to as the ‘pincer grip’. There is a picture of, and more details about the pincer grip at Level 4, Chapter 25. It may be several months before baby succeeds in using a pincer grip and it may be that you will notice her do it with a crumb at dinner time or with a piece of fluff she finds on the floor. When baby uses a pincer grip she moves up to the next development Level, Level 4.
Baby and the gymnastic bar, trapeze and fingers.
By hanging from the bar and trapeze with her fingers baby is developing her ability to pick up smaller and smaller objects, because the more often she grips the bar the more she develops her ability to grip and the sooner she will reach the next level of development; the ‘pincer grip’.
An additional benefit of hanging from the bar (and from ‘brachiation’, which is described below) is that baby’s chest is expanded and this tends to increase her lung capacity over time. This helps her to breathe in larger quantities of air, gives her the ability to speak and sing more strongly, and the ability to run, dance and carry out other physical activities better.
During this Level 3 continue having baby hang from the bar or trapeze as she did in the previous Level 2.
During this Level 3 continue swinging baby from your fingers as in the previous Level 2. The only difference is that now you will be able to move your arms and swing baby for about a meter or more as she hangs from your fingers. To do the swinging you can commence with baby lying on her back and do a ‘lift off’ or you can commence with her sitting in a chair or other safe and convenient position.
At this point in time parents need to decide whether or not they will construct play equipment called a brachiator. The brachiator is more commonly known as monkey bars or an overhead ladder. A brachiator will further help improve, among other things, baby’s manual development and gymnastic bar abilities. Using a brachiator will almost certainly require that parents join in this physical activity with baby. Some parents who are not keen about physical activity might prefer to continue to do only the more easily arranged swinging from the thumbs and other manual development activities in Levels 4, 5, 6 and 7. Those parents will not need to read the brachiation section at Levels 4, 5, 6 or 7. Keep in mind though, that brachiation is a magnificentchildren.love recommended activity to help baby with her OMSDEP.
Baby can commence brachiation in Level 4. The brachiator is required about two to four weeks before baby begins Level 4 so that older family members can use it. If baby sees older family members are enjoying brachiation she will be encouraged to join in the fun. And when she reaches Level 4, she can join in. Read the section about brachiation at the end of Level 4 now and decide if and when you will build, or have built, your brachiator.
Brachiation is carried out in addition to all other manual development activities by parents and children who wish to do so. If baby does begin brachiating then try to have her continue at the rate described in the “Brachiation Activities” section. If for any reason she does not maintain the rate described then simply help her to do her best. Do not delay moving on to the next Level of “BABY’S HANDS: USEFUL EVERY DAY FOR A LIFETIME” simply because you are not achieving the specified rate in the “Brachiation Activities” section. Always move on to the next Level when baby can do as is stated in the section “What baby should be doing as she enters the next Level of development.”
Many playgrounds throughout the world include play equipment which is sometimes called ‘monkey bars’ or ‘overhead ladders’. The name monkey bars is derived from the fact that monkeys swing through trees from branch to branch in much the same way as children will swing from bar to bar on monkey bars. The scientific term for the way monkeys swing from branch to branch is brachiation. The word brachiation means: “To swing by the arms from one hold to the next, as do some apes and monkeys.” A scientific name for monkey bars is therefore a ‘brachiator’.
Brachiation has a number of beneficial effects on children’s development. Some of the most beneficial effects are:
Children’s chests are stretched out as they swing and this assists in the growth of the lung cavity and the lungs.
When children develop larger lung capacity by brachiating then they are better able to run, swim, sing, speak and carry out all physical functions that can require large amounts of oxygen. With larger lungs children should be able to, (i) provide their body cells with more oxygen when it is required and, (ii) have the lung capacity to sing ‘long and strong’ or to blow long and powerfully on musical instruments such as a trumpet, tuba or bagpipes.
When children hold the bars as they swing, their fingers and hands are strengthened and their brain’s ability to control their fingers and hands improves.
When children develop stronger fingers and better brain control of their hands, they are better able to play piano, violin, or other musical instruments that are played with the fingers. They are also better equipped to carry out craft work, to play games using the hands and fingers, to do gymnastics on bars and, as adults, to use their hands as surgeons, plumbers, builders, needle-workers or artists.
When children look at the next bar they are going to grasp they tend to focus clearly on where they will grasp and (by using visual and tactile information provided by the optic nerves and tactile nerves) their brain directs their hand to the correct point to grasp. Doing this improves vision response, co-ordination between vision and tactile senses, and improves the proprioceptive ability of the body, arm, hand and brain.
When children develop better vision, better proprioceptive abilities and better co-ordination between vision and tactile senses they are better able to play games that involve the use of bats, rackets, clubs and balls. Such games include golf, tennis, baseball, cricket, squash, hockey, and croquet. They are also better equipped to co-ordinate their body movements and the movement of other objects such as oncoming vehicles, balls, waves, swings, animals and people. As adults they should be better able to drive cars, trucks, tractors, motor cycles and similar vehicles, use heavy cranes for loading and unloading and play team sports which involve rapid movement through groups of people.
Building a brachiator:
The brachiator sketched below is designed to be built outdoors in the same way as many playground brachiators are built. Four posts are placed firmly into holes in the ground and the brachiation ladder is placed between them at the required height. A steel or timber dowel is put through the holes drilled through each post and through corresponding holes in the ladder to hold it firmly at the required height for the user.
When a brachiator is outside your home it might need a sun, snow, wind or rain screen and conditions could be cold or hot depending on your local climate. If the brachiator is inside your home it can be used at any time of day and in any weather. As the living room is the largest room in many homes it is also often the ideal location for a brachiator but any sufficiently large room will do.
In order to commence brachiating it will be necessary to either build, or have built, a brachiator. The brachiator above is built with the following materials. Four round posts 100mm in diameter and 3.1m long. At least 2.4 meters of the posts should be above the ground and about 700mm concreted into the ground. The posts are 3m apart along the length of the ladder and 450mm apart across the ladder width.
The adult brachiation ladder and the child’s brachiation ladder are built in the same way but the adult ladder uses stronger timber. The timber dowel used to make the rungs in the child’s ladder is 18mm in diameter and the adult sized dowel is 25mm in diameter. The child’s ladder rails are 38mm x 70mm pine and the adult’s rails are at least 38 x 100mm. The rungs are placed 150mm apart in the rails of the child’s ladder and 300mm apart in the adult’s ladder. Each brachiation ladder is 4.2 meters long and the outer edges of the rails are 450mm apart. When your child is about 3 to 4 years old she can begin to use the adult’s ladder.
If you are unable to build the brachiator yourself any competent carpenter or joiner should be able to build one for you if you provide them with a photocopy of this section: “Building a brachiator.” An indoor brachiator is basically the same construction as the outdoor brachiator but requires some extra bracing at the top and bottom because it is not held firmly in the ground.
Brachiator or swing set?
The cost of building a brachiator can be compared with the cost of buying a swing set for your child. While a swing set is likely to cost about the same amount as a brachiator in money terms it has negative effects on your child’s development by contributing to scoliosis and reduced physical activity (i.e. sitting while swinging). To the contrary a brachiator contributes a great deal to your child’s development and provides enjoyable physical activity. A well built brachiator is also likely to last for many years longer than a swing set and to be enjoyed as play equipment into your child’s teenage years.
Before commencing Brachiation at Level 4 make one brachiation ‘ladder’ suitable for adults and one for baby.
Activities for parents and babies:
Ten times each day sit down with baby and, one by one, hand her ten objects that she can take from you.
Then, after waiting about 4 weeks, at the end of every week, do the following for one day:
Hand her five of the objects as usual. Then with clean hands, give her five smaller objects such as pieces of coconut flour bread, small soft vegetable pieces, or other food that she can pick-up using her finger and thumb rather than her whole hand grasp. If you wish, the five small objects can be placed on a plate or tray in front of baby for a short time to give her an opportunity to pick them up.
Continue with this activity for about 4 months until baby uses a pincer grip to pick up any of the smaller objects. She then moves on to Level 4.
Provide baby with many toys and other objects that she can pick-up and examine frequently. Until she reaches Level 4, in about 4 months, progressively give her smaller and smaller objects to pick-up.
During this Level 3 continue having baby hang from the bar or trapeze as she did in the previous Level 2.
During this Level 3 continue swinging baby from your fingers as she did in the previous Level 2. The only difference is that now you will be able to move your arms and swing baby for about a meter or more as she hangs from your fingers. To do the swinging you can commence with baby laying on her back and do a ‘lift off.’
Read about brachiation at Level 4 and, ideally, commence brachiation yourself.
Give baby lots of positive feedback and encouragement.
What baby should be doing at this Level of development:
Using her shoulders and arms to position her hands she will pick up objects such as a spoon or food by choice (not by reflex). She will still use her whole hand and all fingers at once to hold objects that she picks up.
In brief; she will look at it, guide her hand to it, close her hand around it, pick it up and put it down when and where she decides to.
Supporting her own weight for over ten seconds as she hangs while grasping a bar, trapeze, fingers or thumbs.
What baby should be doing as she enters the next Level of development:
Picking up small pea sized objects with either the left or right hand using her pincer grip. (The technical term for ‘pincer grip’ is cortical opposition).
Holding her own weight as she swings on your fingers, the bar or trapeze.
When baby can do as above she graduates to Level 4 of Baby's Hands. Click on the diploma below to move on to Level 4.
An average child is likely to move on to Level 4 at approximately age 9 months.
A Natural Parenting child could potentially move on to Level 4 at approximately age 5.5 months.