What is a Pincer Grip?
A pincer grip (or grasp) is a developmental milestone that typically occurs at 9 to 12 months of age. Using the index finger and thumb, or the index finger and middle fingers opposing the thumb, the child is able to pick up small objects and place items in a controlled manner.
Why is This Important?
A pincer grasp enables the child to feed herself by being able to pick up small bits of food and place food into the mouth with ease. Before this, the child was only able to hold food within the palm after food was "raked" into the palm by the fingers. The pincer grasp allows for a neater and more efficient way to get food into the mouth. Eventually, the child will use the pincer grip for a multitude of other tasks, such as:
- using eating utensils
- imitating finger positions during finger play (for example, making the "ok" sign)
- fastening closures on clothes (snaps, zippers, buttons) using scissors.
holding markers, crayons, or a pencil with a 3 or 4 fingertip pinch
Improving Pincer Grip Development
If your child is still using fingers to "rake" items into the palm or pinching with the thumb against the side of the index finger, try a few of these fun activities to develop a more mature pincer grip.1. Place coins or bingo chips into a narrow slot of a piggy bank.
2. Tape a magazine picture over a sheet of cork board. Use push pins, toothpicks, or corn cob prongs to punch holes along the outlines of the picture. Remove from tape, hold up, and let the light shine through the holes.
3. Use an eye dropper to make art by dropping drops of colored water onto a paper towel, tissue paper, or coffee filter.
4. Pop beads.
5. String large beads onto a necklace or bracelet.
6. Peel stamps and stickers from paper backing and rub/apply to cards.
7. Use fingertips to press and seal Ziplock bags.
8. Using fingertips, crumple up small pieces of colorful tissue paper, dip in glue, and paste onto a paper plate or paper to make a flower bouquet.
9. Practice zipping, buttoning, lacing, or snapping articles of clothing.
10. Tear small pieces of construction paper or colorful magazine photos with fingertips and paste them onto a sheet of paper to make a mosaic picture.
11. Use tongs or tweezers to pick up small objects to sort―beads, beans, pompoms, marshmallows, and cotton balls.
12. Be careful NOT to get clothespins near mouth, nose, or near hair!
13. Practice using the pads of the thumb and index finger to open a clothespin rather than pinching it open against the side of the index finger.
14. Attach several clothespins along the bottom hem of shirt and then pull them off.
15. When pinching clothespins open, try alternating each finger to squeeze opposite the thumb.
16. Pick up small objects with a clothespin―cotton balls, counting bears, pompoms, shamrock counters, crumbled paper, heart counters, beads, pegs, beans, etc.
18. Place clothespins along the top of a container and then on top of each other to construct a design or structure.
19. Hang up pictures or small plush toys on a string, like a clothesline.
Clay, Playdough, Theraputty, Silly Putty
Make your own Coconut Playdough!
- Put the playdough powder (cornstarch) into a bowl.
- Add the liquid (coconut conditioner) a little at a time.
- Mix with a spoon or stick until it is a thick consistency.
- Knead with hands (fun part!) until it is well mixed.
- It shouldn’t be sticky but if it is for some reason, then take it out and continue to roll and knead it on a surface with corn starch sprinkled onto it, until you have the right texture.
- If it is too dry, then dip your fingertips into some more conditioner and knead again.
- You should have super soft coconut smelling play dough and are ready to explore!
21. Flatten small balls of putty or clay by pinching them between the pads of the thumb and index finger.
Spray Bottles, Water Guns, Squirt Toys
22. Use spray bottles to help water plants or spray the windows to clean. Play with them in the bathtub or play outdoors in warm weather.
23. Add food coloring to make spray bottle pictures in the snow.
25. Use small squirt toys which often look like fish or animals, to encourage pinching with 1 or 2 fingers opposite the thumb.
26. Pop the bubbles on large or small bubble wrap by pinching with thumb and index finger or by pushing down on bubbles when sheet is placed on a hard surface.
Squeeze Toys and Materials
27. Use a kitchen bulb syringe or turkey baster to squirt water, or have a race by squeezing them to blow cotton balls and pompoms across a finish line.
28. Cut a line (or "mouth") into the side of a tennis ball. When you squeeze the ball the mouth will open. Hide pennies, pegs, beads and other small things inside. Squeeze to open and shake out the contents.
29. Start a collection of craft activities that require using bottles to squeeze―glue, glitter glue, puffy paint, fabric paint. Most of these are available, inexpensively, at the dollar stores.
If Your Child Still Struggles with the Proper Pincer Grip
It takes time and practice for children to strengthen the hand and finger muscles used in the pincer grip. If your child still has difficulty with the pincer grip, consider these final steps:30. If your child finds it challenging to pinch with just the index and middle fingers opposite the thumb, have him hold a small item (marble, coin, bear counter, or cotton ball) against the palm with the ring and pinky fingers of the hand.
31. Demonstrate the proper pincer grip, using only your thumb and pointer finger to pick up small objects. Exaggerate your movements so your thumb and pointer finger open as wide as possible before closing in on the small object. Keep your three remaining fingers (middle finger, ring finger and pinky finger) tight against your palm, so only your thumb and pointer finger are doing the work.
32. Serve finger food. Ask your child to pick up small pieces of food with his fingers. If your child picks up one grape at a time, you will get the proper pincer grip.
33. Tape a piece of paper to a vertical surface, such as a door or an easel. Have your child paint on the paper while it is on the vertical surface. Holding the paint brush up to the vertical surface will force your child to flex his hand back at the wrist. This motion automatically puts the thumb and forefinger into the pincer grip position.
When first starting out, many children need to use the index and middle fingers together against the thumb for pinching. Don't worry about this! As the rest of the hand and wrist muscles strengthen and develop, there will eventually be less reliance on the middle finger. Most of all, remember―as with everything else, learning can be fun!
What do you think? Has your child mastered the pincer grip? Still working on it? We'd love to hear your stories! Comment below!