Arm strength development plays a major role in your baby's first year. Arm muscle control enables your baby to interact with and explore her environment, and to develop skills that help her crawl, climb and pull herself up. Encourage arm movement by playing with your baby, providing interesting toys and activities and giving her ample supervised play time to explore her environment.
Your baby's physical development progresses from the head down and the torso out, and includes both gross and fine motor development. Babies gain control of larger gross muscles such as the arms before the smaller muscles of the wrists, hands and fingers. Development of the arm muscles is an important part of your baby's physical development. Arm control enables your baby to eventually coordinate the large motor movements of the arms with movement and control of the hands and fingers.
The strengthening of your baby's arm muscles enables him to reach for objects or people, hold himself up off the floor during tummy time, balance when sitting up independently, crawl and pull up. As your baby's arm development progresses, he learns to use his arms and hands together to accomplish new tasks. For example, reaching for and grabbing a toy indicates the coordination of the gross motor muscles of the arms and the fine motor muscles of the hands and fingers. Other examples include waving goodbye, and picking up and transferring finger food to the mouth.
By three months, your baby uses her arms to support her upper body weight during tummy time, opens and closes her hands, moves her hands to her mouth and holds toys, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Babies reach with one hand, transfer objects from one hand to the other and use hands to slide objects back at forth by seven months, according to the CDC. By 12 months, babies use their arms and hands to crawl, pull up and change positions.
To promote healthy arm muscle development, provide your baby with colorful rattles and toys for handling and mouthing. Give your baby tummy time and floor play time each day. Freedom of movement enables babies to stretch and move their arms, and gives them opportunities to practice and learn new skills. Place toys close by during play time to encourage reaching and grabbing. Provide safe, open spaces to invite movement and exploration, advises the Cooperative Extension System. Play peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake with your baby to help stretch and strengthen arm muscles. Give your baby colorful balls to encourage arm movement, coordination and active play. Starting at around seven months, offer your baby finger foods to encourage hand to mouth coordination.
Seek the advice of your child's pediatrician if you suspect a developmental delay in your baby's arm control and strength. Visit the pediatrician if your infant can't hold toys by three months, reach for objects by four months, move objects to mouth by seven months, or if he loses previously acquired skills, advises the CDC.