The primary purpose of this study was to determine whether preterm infants born at less than 33 weeks of gestational age contacted a toy with their feet at 2 months of corrected age, before doing so with their hands, and whether movement training advanced feet reaching.Â Twenty-six infants born preterm were randomly assigned to receive daily movement training or daily social training. During the 8-week training period, the infants were videotaped in a testing session every other week from 2 to 4 months of age.Â Both groups contacted the toy with their feet at 2 months of age during the first testing session prior to training, at an age when no infants consistently contacted the toy with their hands. After 8 weeks of training, the movement training group displayed a greater number and longer duration of foot-toy contacts compared with the social training group.
These results suggest that movement experiences advance feet reaching as they do for hand reaching. For clinicians, feet-oriented play may provide an early intervention strategy to encourage object interaction for movement impairments within the first months of postnatal life. Future studies can build on these results to test the long-term benefit of encouraging early purposeful leg movements.