Child Development: Emotional and Fine Motor Milestones

April 2, 2021

The last post looked at child development: gross motor milestones. Remember 4-6-9-12 months / role-sit-crawl-walk?

This post will touch on emotional and fine motor milestones. For emotional milestones, I think it helps to remember them by understanding what is going on in the baby’s brain.

Object Permanence

Towards the end of the 4-7-month period, the baby discovers that objects continue to exist even when they are out of her sight – a principle called object permanence.

From Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, “In her first few months of life, she assumed that the world consisted of only things that she could see. When you left her room, she assumed you vanished; when you returned, you were a whole new person to her. In much the same way, when you hid a toy under a cloth or a box, she thought it was gone for good and wouldn’t bother looking for it. But sometime after four months, she’ll begin to realize that the world is more permanent than she thought.”1

By playing games like peek-a-boo, a baby learns about object permanence.

By about eight months, object permanence is developed, so when you hide a toy under a scarf, she will know the toy is under the scarf and will search for it.

Stranger Anxiety

As the baby hits eight months, along with object permanence, she can tell the difference between familiar and unfamiliar. Thus she becomes anxious around strangers. Stranger anxiety is usually one of the first emotional milestones a baby reaches.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is another normal stage of emotional development that starts as babies acquire object permanence. The baby gets anxious or upset with the thought or the reality of being separated from the caregiver.

In this stage, the baby may become incredibly clingy to the main caregiver. For the following examples, let’s say the main caregiver is the mother. If the mother leaves the room, the baby gets upset and, if possible, follows. If the mother goes to the bathroom, the baby may crawl right behind and wait by the door. If the mother heads out to run an errand, the baby starts crying.

During my pediatric training, I had a Child Development Mentor who shared that he thought that every baby should show separation anxiety because that indicated the baby had attachment with someone. He said, “Every baby, when they are young, needs to be attached to another human being.”

Separation anxiety peaks between 10-18 months and then eases up by two years.

Fine motor milestones

4 months

Can easily bring objects to her mouth

Transfers an object from one hand to another

6 months

Babies can begin to self-feed

Uses raking grasp (uses fingers and thumb in a mitten or claw-like grip or raking motion)

9 months old

Develops pincer grasp – using index finger and thumb to pick up things

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1

American Academy of Pediatrics. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5.

Edited by: Steven P. Shelov and Tanya Remer Altmann. Bantam Books. 2014