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Why Babies Swat

Newborns have virtually no muscle control, but as early as 6 weeks, some babies start to swat and reach for things  -- albeit in a jerky, awkward sort of way. Your baby will reach for objects with her whole palm, her thumb parallel to the rest of her fingers instead of opposing them. This isn't the most efficient means of getting things, but let her practice  -- she'll get better with time. By around 4 months, she'll be able to grab a toy or pacifier right out of your hand.

Try these coaching tips:

• Allow your baby to try grasping some things on her own. It's fine if you hand her objects in the beginning, but as time goes on, let her expand her own abilities.

• Keep it fun. Dangle or set a toy in front of your baby that makes noise when she touches it, give her a ball to roll, or place her on her back underneath a baby gym. The more she practices reaching and grabbing, the more fun she'll have. She'll also get better at it, making it more gratifying for her  -- and for you as well.

• Be supportive. If she gets a little frustrated, say something comforting while offering her the help she needs to accomplish her goal.

• Know when to quit. Don't let her get too upset when her swats lead to unsuccessful grabs; it may turn her off to the game. If it seems like she's having too much trouble, end the activity and do something new.

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