These are more important than the gross motor milestones in assessing the development of a child because these milestones require fine co-ordination and use of the small muscles (e.g. of hand) to perform intricate and delicate tasks like eating, holding small objects etc. In gross motor milestones, big muscles like those of trunk, hips etc. are used.
At 3 months, the hands that in the newborn period were predominantly clenched, now remains predominantly open. It is an important thing because now only the child can grasp and manipulate things.
At 4 months, the child can bring his 2 hands together and thus grasps a red ring or a rattle dangling in front of him. Initially, he may overshoot it but with some practice, he manages to hold it in both his hands and then tries to manipulate it to his mouth. At the same time, the child does an interesting thing, called “hand regard.” The child will take the hand in front of his eyes and regard it intently for several moments as though he is a palmist studying the various lines of “fate” of the hand.
At the age of 5 months, the child starts “foot play” i.e. starts kicking them at random; particularly when he is excited. He may also catch hold of one of his foot and manipulate it towards his mouth. At the same age “hand play” progresses further and the child instead of using both hands now tries to grasp things with one hand only, albeit crudely and that too from the little finger side of his palm; called the “ulnar grasp.”
At 6 months, the baby can transfer objects like a cube from one hand to another and will even drop the object from his hand if another one is offered eager to take it also.
At about 8 months, the child starts grasping objects from the other side of his hand, i.e. the index finger side; called the “radial grasp”, but in a crude and clumsy fashion.
At 9 months, the child can hit two objects grasped in each of his hands together and enjoys doing so.
The 10-month milestone is considered very important by doctors called an “index finger” approach to an object i.e. if an object is kept in front of the child; he approaches it by extending his index finger towards it. Second important thing is the thumb index finger oppositionality i.e. trying to hold objects in between his index finger and the thumb. God has blessed human beings with versatile use of the thumb; and once the child starts bringing it actively into play i.e. at the age of 10 months; it is considered that the child is developmentally normal.
At the age of 1 year, the child voluntarily releases objects from his grasp and gives it to the mother, if requested to do so. At about the same time, the child loves and enjoys putting things in and out of a box. At about 15 months, the child is able to insert a pellet in a bottle and at 18 months, can dump pellet out from a bottle. It heralds the beginning of true coordination, because to put in and then take out a thing from a small opening like that of a bottle really requires fine co-ordination of eyes and small muscles of the hand.
At about the same time, the child enjoys feeding himself with a spoon but in the process often rotates the spoon thereby spilling its contents. The child makes quite a mess, spilling food on his clothes, table ground etc. And while the parents inwardly or outwardly fume, the child, oblivious to the parental agony, enjoys by more spilling and dribbling. As mentioned earlier, it is not wise to curtail the child’s sense of achievement and merriment. Parents should not mind much the mess being created but rather should use their common sense to do some “damage control” exercises to limit the mess being created by the child (refer to the chapter on “Feeding”). There are spoons available with a rotatory handle, so that even if the child rotates the spoon, the scoop of the spoon always stays straight and thus goes into the stomach rather than on to the stomach.
Dressing and undressing: Undressing comes earlier than dressing because it is easier. At about 18 months, the child “helps” in undressing i.e. he makes appropriate limb adjustments so that the mother can undress him. By 2 years, the child helps in dressing spilling is minimised. Fortunately for the parents, their agony is short lived (about 3 months) as after this the child becomes fairly adept in handling the spoon; so that more of the food also. At the same time he makes attempts, sometimes successful, sometimes ending up in a tangle, to take off his clothes. By the age of 3 years, however, the child has by and large mastered the art of both dressing and undressing and requires little parental help. He can often buckle his shoes at the same age but tying of shoelaces comes at about 5 years of age.