Developing the pincer grip

Find out why the pincer grip is important developmental milestone and how you can help your baby or toddler develop this essential fine motor skill from as young as 12 months old.
Find out why the pincer grip is an important developmental milestone and how you can help your baby or toddler develop this essential fine motor skill from as young as 12 months old.

Developing the pincer grip


What is the pincer grip?

The pincer grip or pincer grasp as it's sometimes called, is gained by being able to hold objects between the thumb and any of the fingers.

It enables your baby to pick up and place small items using their thumb and eventually their index finger in a controlled manner.

These fine motor movements involve the coordination of small muscles in their hands and fingers. 

Developing the pincer grip

By the developmental age of around 12 months, babies will begin to pick up small items using their thumb and forefinger using the pincer grip. 

Playing with toys that need to be squeezed, pushed together or pulled apart will help babies and toddlers strengthen the tiny muscles in their hands that are needed for more sophisticated skills later on such as feeding themselves, dressing themselves, for painting and colouring, tying their shoes and many other activities.

By the time your little one starts school it’s important that they can hold a pencil to draw and write using a strong ‘pincer grip’.

7 Activities to help develop the pincer grip

It takes time and practice for young children to strengthen the muscles used in the pincer grip.

If your child has difficulty mastering the pincer grip, try some of these activities to help develop this object-grabbing skill.

1. Encourage your baby or toddler to point at pictures in books, push holes into play dough or make dents in the carpet with their index finger. This is an important first step in the development of the pincer grasp

2. Bath toys that squirt water, spray bottles, large Duplo or Mega Blocks and Velcro fasteners are great tools to help your little one develop their finger and thumb muscles and the ability to coordinate them.  

3. Dropping objects into containers will help them begin to separate the muscle movements of their wrist, hand and individual fingers.

4. Scribbling allows your toddler or pre-schooler to use a large crayon, chalk or marker to help develop the arches of their hands.

5. For older children, try setting up an activity so they can practice squeezing and releasing their hand muscles.

Perhaps use small tongs with cotton wool, crackers or other small objects on trays, then get them to use the tongs to transfer the objects from one tray to another.

Pegs are also good for helping young children to practice squeezing and releasing their muscles.

6. Sensory boards or busy boards with lots of buttons to poke, switches to flip, and dials to turn help develop the pincer movement and also teach the important thinking skill of cause-and-effect.

7. Giving your baby one or two small things at a time is more likely to get them to use a pincer grasp. If there are too many items in front of them they are more likely to try to pick them all up at once and will use a less mature “raking grasp,” gathering as much as possible into their palm with all of their fingers helping.

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Source: This article was written by Nurtured At Home - providing high quality learning environments in a safe and nurturing home.
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