As your baby grows there are several milestones to be aware of. The pincer grasp is one of the first steps to fine motor development. Your baby will naturally develop the pincer grasp but there are also a number of ways to help develop it with your baby.
What Does the Pincer Grasp Do?
At first your baby will hold your finger with the entire hand. This palmar grasp is a reflex and one of the first types of hand development they will exhibit. By six months old they will be able to hold an object with the entire hand including the pinkie finger and thumb.
The pincer grasp is the use of the index finger and thumb to grasp small objects. At first, your baby may figure out how to bring objects closer to them. Over time, your baby will be able to have more control when holding small objects. While they may be able to hold on to an object with the pads of their fingers, it is not a fully developed pincer grasp. A true pincer grasp uses the tips of the thumb and index finger. It may look like a pinch, but that is not the nature of the word “pincer”.
Why is the Pincer Grasp an Important Milestone?
The pincer grasp is the beginning of fine motor skill development. It enables holding small items and encourages them to self-feed. The pincer grasp allows your baby to have more control of objects of all shapes and sizes. Strength is just one part of a pincer grasp. It also requires hand-eye coordination.
The grasp also leads to other fine motor skill development that is important in day-to-day activities. Fine motor skills lead to tasks for toddlers and preschoolers such as holding a utensil, drawing with crayons and markers, and writing with a pencil or pen. Even cutting with scissors is a preschool skill that requires fine motor development and finger control. By the time your child is in kindergarten, the pincer grasp will be important to pinch a shoelace to tie their own shoes.
When Does the Pincer Grasp Develop?
This grasp is a milestone that your pediatrician may ask about around nine or twelve months of age. After your baby starts to reach and grab for toys, food, and just about anything, they are developing curiosity as well as grasping. Around six months, they will use their hands to grab smaller items such as finger foods and spoons. Even throwing these objects are part of the process to them. But practice happens more than just at feeding time. While they may reach the pincer grasp milestone by their first birthday, they will already be moving on as they develop even finer motor skills.
What Pincer Grasp Activities Can Your Child Do to Develop It?
Modeling pincer grasp will help your baby understand what they should do. Show them how you pick up small objects using the tips of your index finger and thumb. Sometimes you may have to hold their other fingers for them to understand the feel of just using those two digits.
If your baby has already started finger foods, they are on their way to developing their pincer grasp. Small bits of food including dry cereal, puffs, pasta and cooked vegetables not only work their grasp, but encourages and rewards them in the process. These items are also safe for them to put into their mouth because they are the right size and consistency.
When your baby points, they are showing that they are able to isolate index finger movement. Pointing will strengthen the index finger which will help when they want to grasp. Some pointing activities include:
- Pointing to pictures in a book
- Pointing to objects around them like people and body parts (also great for vocabulary development)
- Poking an object such as play dough, clay, or a bean-filled bag
- Finger painting by using one finger as the “paintbrush”
Toys and Activity Centers
The toys that are age-appropriate for babies between eight months to twelve months have many gadgets and textures that promote pincer grasp development.
- Ring toys & musical instruments
- Wooden blocks of various sizes
- Board books for page turning
- Activity cubes and busy boards with beads, spinners, dials, switches and cranks
What If Your Baby Doesn’t Have a Pincer Grasp?
As with every child, everyone develops at their own rate. Activities that are fun will encourage grasp development, but your child may still want to self-feed in their own style. Don’t stress if the milestone is not met right away. If you help or guide your baby, make sure that these activities are still fun and allow them to enjoy their new discoveries.
If your baby has no interest in picking up toys or foods or exhibits no sign of pincer grasp development, especially by twelve months old, be sure to speak with your pediatrician. They can assure you if your baby is developing at their own speed or if you need to discuss interventions such as an occupational therapist who can help you and your child work toward the developmental milestones.
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