'Sticky mittens' to help babies


With a smile and a wave, four-month-old Jona Beck is lending a hand to scientific research. Two hands, actually. Jona's hands and toy are covered in Velcro.

"She definitely got that experience of going look, ‘I can pick up something that I couldn't pick up before,'" explained Sara Beck, Jona's mother.

From zero to five months old, infants lack the coordination to grab and pick up objects. But, it's a different story with Sticky Mittens.

"It's setting into motion new processes, new opportunities for learning that babies then take of advantage of," explained Amy Needham, PhD, psychology professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Needham headed up the first study of 32 three-month-olds. Those playing with Sticky Mittens every day for two weeks showed a developmental edge over those who didn't.

"Now she's reaching for objects and putting them in her mouth and banging them on the table," Beck said.

"Babies with the Sticky Mittens experience show more looking at objects, more reaching for objects and more mouthing of objects," Needham said.

Their social development was better and they paid more attention to people's faces. This study shows parents should encourage babies' motor development because they're ready to learn long before they develop the coordination to try, and before we think they are.

A former student of Needham's is now at the University of Pittsburgh studying infants at risk for autism to see if they might benefit from motor training as young as three months.

Other studies are now under way to see if the developmental edge the Sticky Mittens babies enjoyed helps them continue to learn and develop faster through their first few years of life.