The term grasp is easy enough to understand. It’s simply how children pick up and hold onto tools, objects – anything in their environment.
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What gets slightly more complicated are the huge variety of different grasp patterns kids use every single day as they play, work, eat, dress themselves, and more! These grasp patterns tend to change and progress as children grow from infants into toddlers, preschoolers, and eventually big kids!
Babies tend to use what’s called a palmar grasp to pick up and hold objects. This grasp typically uses the fingers and, as the name suggests, the palm. Gradually, babies begin to learn to involve their thumb in this grasp too, giving them more control over their grasp. Older babies start to use what’s called raking – or using their index and middle fingers to scrape objects into the palm.
By they time they reach toddlerhood, kids begin using more refined ways of picking up objects with their thumb and fingers. This is when you start hearing about the pincer grasp – grasping small objects like Cheerios between the thumb and index finger.
Eventually, older toddlers and preschoolers become more adept at grasping small objects with control and accuracy and begin to learn how to hold a writing utensil for drawing, coloring, and writing activities. There is also an array of developmental pencil grasp patterns that kids use as they learn to write.
Young children (younger than 2) start with a less mature grasp where they hold crayons and pencils using the whole hand and thumb (small finger pointed downward, thumb pointed up). Gradually, around the age of 2-3, they move to a slightly more refined pronated grasp where they hold utensils with their fingers – the palm, thumb, and index finger pointed downward toward the paper. As kids enter preschool, they begin to get more familiar with using their Super Fingers to grasp a pencil, which is known as a tripod grasp.
Most kids will naturally progress through the developmental grasp patterns without difficulty. Exposure to play opportunities that allow children to develop their grasp strength and coordination can ensure that they’ll be prepared with the skills they need to be successful with grasping activities in school and beyond! Check out a few of our favorites:
–Baby Bumble Bee – This quickly became one of our most popular activities because kids are fascinated by the squishable little bumble bees. They’re easy to make and can be kept on hand after the activity to use as fidget toys.
–Clips and clothespins are great for developing strength in the muscles needed for a good tripod grasp. Try our Hanging Out the Wash game – kids have to use those grasping skills to manipulate and pinch clothespins to hang out the wash! Or, check out this Personalized Name Caterpillar craft!
–Cooking with kids is a fun way to promote good grasping skills by practicing on cooking tools and utensils. Try making a Farm Fresh Feast!
–Tongs are great for helping kids develop the “precision” side of their hand (the thumb, index finger, and middle finger) for grasping. Try this Feed the Elephant game!
–Lego or Duplo blocks – Both awesome for developing grasp strength! Smaller Lego bricks are great for older kids with more advanced skills, while the larger Duplo version is best for the younger crowd.
–Stickers or Tape – Pulling tape and stickers off of the roll and/or pulling them off of various surfaces (walls, tables, floors) is a great hand strengthener for kids. Check out these easy activities for kids using tape and stickers!
Also, be sure to check out our 35 Fun Hand Strengthening Activities for Kids!
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