The pincer grasp is a crucial milestone in a baby's development, a gateway to new experiences. Babies at this stage are no longer limited to only pushing, pulling, and palming objects. They can now also start to pick up small items and move them where they want. How does the pincer grasp develop, and how can you help your babies during this very important process? For starters, what is the pincer grasp?

Pincer grasp is a fine motor skill, the ability to pick up small objects between our thumb and index finger, a movement we do a hundred or a thousand times a day. This is a key ability for using a spoon (self-feeding), putting on socks (self-dressing), or grasping a pencil (coloring, painting, writing, etc.) - among many other actions. Babies need nearly a year to be able to manipulate small objects easily and with precision. And they cross nine developmental stages along this course:

1. The reflexive grasp
During their first six months, babies will automatically grasp anything that is placed in their hands.

2. The crude palmar grasp
At around 4 months, babies will start to hold things placed in their hands using their palms.

3. The ulnar palmar grasp
Shortly after discovering the crude palmar grasp, babies start to pick up objects by curling the pinkie-finger side of their hands around them.

4. The raking grasp
At around 6 months, babies begin to use all their fingers - except their thumb - to rake small objects into the palm of their hands.

5. The radial palmar grasp
At last, babies understand what their thumb is for. When they grab a small object, they now use their thumb to stabilize it on the side.

6. The scissors grasp
As their thumb dexterity improves, at around 8 months, babies are able to hold an object between their thumb and the side of their curled index finger.

7. The radial digital grasp
At around 9 months, babies can hold objects between their index fingers and thumb.

8. The inferior pincer grasp
The "inferior" pincer grasp is the last stage before the "superior" pincer grasp. Babies at this stage can use the pads of their thumbs and index fingers to pick up small objects - but not yet with their fingertips.

9. The superior pincer grasp
Well done! At around 1 year old, babies will have a fully developed pincer grasp, which allows them to pick up small objects with the tips of their thumb and index finger.

Parents can play a significant role in the proper development of their babies' fine motor skills - especially dexterity, coordination, and strength - by using age-appropriate and safe toys and objects to carry out activities that encourage a functional pincer grasp.

Picture: Cute baby grasping an object (ChildUp & DALL-E - 2023)