Baby girl playing with toy at Educare Chicago

Playing at Arm’s Reach

Help your baby’s motor development and get them moving with this fun activity.

June 27, 2020
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  • Health and Development
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Recommended for Infants

Materials Needed:

  • Several small, interesting toys (rattles, teethers, colorful blocks, shakers)
  • Soft blanket

Developmental Goals:

  • Promote gross and fine motor development that encourages them to move, reach and stretch.
  • Purposeful movement of own bodies.

In the Future:

  • Infants need plenty of opportunities to increase their strength and motor development to eventually be able to crawl and then walk.
  • Reaching for objects is goal directed behavior; as infants become successful at obtaining objects, it will encourage them to continue to act with purpose.


  1. This activity is appropriate only for infants who are able to support their body weight enough for tummy-time activities.
  2. Spread the blanket on the floor in an area where he will be protected from other activity in the room.
  3. Place him on his tummy on the blanket. Show him a toy and describe it to him. Look, (Child’s Name), I have a blue and white rattle.
  4. Put the toy on the blanket just at arm’s reach from your child so that he has to stretch his arm out to grab it.
  5. Give him time to shake, mouth and touch the toy.
  6. When he shows you he is ready for a new experience, place another toy just at arm’s reach for him to grab.
  7. Encourage him to use the opposite arm by placing the toy within closer reach of the arm he did not previously use.
  8. Repeat the interaction for as long as your child is interested. Pay particular attention to his activity level. It is hard work for your child to lie on his tummy and reach for toys. You may notice that he is beginning to have a hard time supporting his head and neck, he is no longer reaching for objects, or he has an unhappy look on his face. When your child shows you that he is finished or that his body is getting tired, help him change position so he can rest his muscles.

As you are playing with your baby, consider how he moves his arms and the rest of his body to reach the toy, in what ways does he grasp and manipulate the toy, and how long is he able to attend to his experience.

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