Promoting Focused Eye-Hand Coordination

Promoting Focused Eye-Hand Coordination

Infant on back under a mobile, reaching for and looking at a blue and white ball hanging from the mobile

A picture is worth a thousand words! However, focused eye-hand coordination are the four words that come to my mind when I look at this photograph. This picture captures a baby focusing on the objects in front of her and then reaching out for them–a perfect example of focused eye-hand coordination. 

What is eye-hand coordination?

The Head Start Early Childhood Learning Knowledge Center establishes goals for child development in perceptual, motor, and physical behaviors. The fine motor skill goal for children from birth to nine months is that a child “[c]oordinates hands and eyes when reaching for and holding stable or moving objects.” This early fine motor skill development allows children to complete tasks like putting on a mitten, putting puzzle pieces together, or turning the pages of a book later on in their development.

Follow the Leader

Interacting with babies, following the baby’s lead, and introducing age-appropriate activities like eating and playing are a few ways teachers at Illuminating Child Care introduce focused eye-hand coordination to babies through repeated experiences and set a strong foundation for future fine motor skill development.

Child observation is an important part of interacting with babies since they lack spoken communication skills to voice their needs. Observation of the child allows the teacher to determine how to meet their needs and provide care.


When Lead Teachers are observing babies, they are also building teacher-child relationships. These kinds of relationships and early experiences are an important foundation that help babies reach developmental milestones, along with many other positive effects.  

Eyes on the Prize

To follow the lead of the baby pictured above, the caregiver observed the child and knew that the mobile was an appropriate activity for him, so the caregiver placed him on his back under the mobile. Without instruction, he immediately became aware of his environment–focusing, reaching and grasping for the balls on the mobile. 

Research shows that babies aren’t born with an innate ability to perform focused eye-hand coordination activities. The role of the teacher is to create the environment informed by observation, and babies respond by building a repertoire of fine motor skills that strengthen their focused eye-hand coordination as they grow.  

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Learning Through Imaginative Play: Following the Lead of the Child

Learning Through Imaginative Play: Following the Lead of the Child

“Hi Declan, how are you doing today?” Madison Clay, the Illuminating Child Care mobile classroom early childhood lead teacher, greets the almost three year old as he enters the classroom. He answers “I’m fine,” walks over to the shelf, and grabs the colorful 3D magnetic blocks and an illustration showing different models he can build.

Declan has been participating in Illuminating Child Care for about six weeks, and he will be enrolling in a preschool program in the fall. I had the opportunity to observe him for three hours while he was in drop-in care. 

And today, he’s ready to play. Declan and Madison walk over to the dramatic play area and sit on the rug, and he dumps out the 3D blocks on the carpet. “I want to build this one,” he says, pointing to the rocket ship. “Which piece do we start with first?” Madison asks. Declan picks up the first piece, and Madison and Declan continue to work together until Declan has finished building the rocket ship.  

“Now let’s fly!” Declan starts to turn around the classroom with the rocket.

What is imaginative play?

Though it can be challenging to define what qualifies as play, play is an important way that kids learn. Katie Hurley, LCSW, describes imaginative play as play that “involves advanced thinking strategies, communication, and social skills. Kids spend time planning the play theme, dividing up tasks, negotiating roles, considering perspectives, transferring knowledge from one situation to another (e.g. setting up a grocery store based on what they know from shopping with parents), balancing their own ideas with those of their peers, and developing an action plan. That’s a lot of learning!”

Madison supported Declan in imaginative play by following his lead, asking open-ended questions to build his language, and extending active play opportunities

Imaginative Play Yields Real Benefits

Experts believe imaginative play allows the child to strengthen their creativity and problem-solving abilities, stay active, and make learning fun. When Declan first walked into the classroom, he identified familiar materials in the environment to spark his imagination. During play, he used expressive and descriptive language and engaged his peers in active play. These are just a few developmental benefits of imaginative play. 

“Ah man, it broke! . . . Let’s put it back together . . . This one is yours . . . Did you see that? . . . Where did it go?” Phrases like these were common for Declan to use while playing with and rebuilding the rocket ship with Madison and his peers.  

Imaginative Play in Action

“Now I’m going to build a robot! . . . Look at his arms–he looks like a silly person! . . . Now put wheels on his legs so he can roll and propellers on his head so he can fly!” When Declan plays, he interacts with the teacher and his peers, narrates what he’s doing–and doesn’t forget to celebrate. “Yeah, I made this!” he says triumphantly.

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The Importance of Building Teacher-Child Relationships

The Importance of Building Teacher-Child Relationships

Imagine this scenario: A parent drops off their sleeping child at Illuminating Child Care. The teacher and parent transition the child successfully without waking her up.  A few minutes later, the child starts to wake up, noticing that the environment is different and that her mom is not there. Now, we all know what happens next. She starts to cry, looking around and trying to figure out where she is. The teacher, noticing the child’s discomfort, starts to interact with her at eye-level.

Lead teachers at Illuminating Child Care are building positive relationships with infants and toddlers ages 0-3, just as these kiddos are beginning their first educational experiences. The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning says that “teacher behaviors such as listening to children, making eye contact with them, and engaging in many one-to-one, face-to-face interactions with young children promote secure teacher-child relationships.” And these types of teacher behaviors are critical to establishing a teacher-child relationship.

But why are teacher-child relationships important?

Relationships between a teacher and a child are important because they are built in agreement.  Children agree to show up as themselves and teachers agree to create the environment and experiences to meet their needs.  The child naturally needs to feel comfortable, responded to and loved in their environment. The role of the teacher is to influence the relationship and learn how to positively interact with the child in their care while also responding to the needs of the child. These teacher-child relationships create foundational experiences that influence trust, encourage developmental milestones, social and emotional regulation, healthy interaction and the ability to form secure relationships throughout life. 

In the scenario described above, the teacher picked up on the child’s needs and immediately started to interact with her by using her name, using warm language and strategies that calm the child.  As the teacher interacts with the child, she begins to respond to the teacher and settles into the environment.  

In every teacher-child interaction, there is an opportunity to build relationship.  The teacher supported the relationship by assuring the child she is in a safe place and the child responded to the teacher by demonstrating the ability to self-regulate. Teacher-child relationships are important because they are built on trust, familiarity, consistency, and following the lead of the child. Research from the Early Childhood Training and technical Assistance System tells us that “what you do to foster these relationships in your environment, interactions, and routines can have a long-term positive impact on infants’ and toddlers’ development.”

Teachers play a special role in the lives of children in their care. They create repeated opportunities to build trust in the relationship. And that’s exactly what our Lead Teachers at Illuminating Child Care are doing every day.

Patsy Bruce is the Child Care Manager for Illuminating Child Care at Illuminate Colorado. 

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