Saturday, May 16, 2009

Developing the Pincer Grasp

In last week’s column we left baby’s fine motor development at a stage called ‘raking’. This is where baby uses the entire hand with fingers outspread to bring desired objects into the hand and often into the mouth. Let’s talk about what happens next as the baby moves from raking to picking up an object with his thumb and index finger, using a pincer grasp.

To learn about the motor movements involved you might want to put a small object like an eraser or lump of playdoh into the palm of your hand. Without putting it back down onto the table, how do you move the lump from your palm to your thumb and index finger? Watch your thumb move from the outside of the palm closer to the index finger. You roll the object across your palm until the object is in a more manageable position.

This is what baby does. However, it takes weeks and months of practice to coordinate all the movements in order to do this. As this is happening, baby’s gross motor skills are allowing him to refine how close he gets to desired objects and eventually allow him to sit when he gets there. With these developments in place, baby will be in a position to pick up objects in a more sophisticated manner. Instead of raking, he will now pick up objects with the flat side of the thumb and index finger. It is not yet as precise as it will be, but it is more refined than using the entire hand.

Our baby is now between one and two years of age. Cheerios on the highchair tray, bits of peas or corn, and small pieces of cheese or other soft foods will give baby functional practice with this skill. While feeding himself, he also gains the knowledge that he can do things for himself. The pride of the two year old is at hand with “ME DO” and “NO” along with the development of fine motor skills.

It will take all the years from toddlerhood through kindergarten to continue refining the pincer grasp. Enjoyable explorations with coloring, painting, playdoh, and cutting grow into using pencils and scissors with accuracy. In the column next week, I will offer ideas on activities for young child which both give pleasure and fine motor practice as development proceeds.

Toad House Publishing

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