5 activities to help your baby learn the pincer grip
Updated: Feb 14
Your baby is learning so many things, it’s no wonder that as parents we forget that we can influence and support their learning journey. Helping your baby to learn and refine the pincer grip will not only support their ability to feed themselves but it will also impact on other areas of development, such as speech, confidence and independence.
Firstly, what is the pincer grip?
We categorise the skills related to movement into two main areas:
· Gross-motor skills – these are linked to large movements like jumping, running and circling your arms.
· Fine-motor skills – smaller more delicate movements like curling your tongue or tapping your fingers.
The pincer grip is an example of your baby learning fine-motor skills. It is the action of using your thumb and index finger to hold something and release it.
We typically see this skill develop around 9-10 months of age but remember we all develop at different rates. If you are concerned that toddler hasn’t learnt this skill, please speak to your paediatrician for more advice.
What can we do to nurture this new skill?
1. Allow your baby to play with food!
The smaller the pieces the more skills you need to pick them up so experiment with offering different sizes of food*. You might consider squashing foods like peas and blueberries to avoid them rolling around too much, this makes it a little easier for those little hands to practice grasping.
*Be aware that small pieces also pose a choking risk so ensure you observe your child when playing and eating and cut food appropriately for the child’s age.
2. Set a sticky challenge.
Sticky tape can be quite challenging to remove and as equally rewarding when you rip it all off in one piece! Place tape on the walls, windows or stick down favourite toy on the floor and allow those tiny little fingers to work hard at removing each little bit.
TIP: Use masking tape and first stick it to your clothes to lose some of the stickiness to avoid leaving marks on surfaces.
3. Messy play!
The aim is to strengthen those tiny little hand muscles and we can help do that by giving baby objects to manipulate. Play dough is great for this but babies tend to put everything in their mouth so look for edible messy play options like mashed potato or jelly. You can make it more exciting by adding food colouring, smelly spices and objects inside for your baby to see, taste, smell and find.
4. Sharing books
I’m always happy to have an excuse to recommend reading books together. Consider having a small selection of baby safe books for your little one to play with alone. Board books with thicker pages and flaps are great for this. They don’t break easily and they provide better grip. Turning pages of a book requires fine-motor skills, exactly the ones we need for the pincer grip!
5. Practice using tools to eat
There are some really great products out there to help build the relationship between gripping objects and gaining the coordination and skills needed to eat.
I like to recommend the Doddl baby cutlery set for babies from 6 months available from Nurture Hub!
As baby turns 12m, moving onto metal cutlery is no problem as there are usually more teeth to protect those gums. In this case, Nana’s Manners Stage 2 cutlery are great for toddlers to develop using two hands to eat.