Discover when a Pincer Grasp develops, the difference between a Crude and Neat Pincer Grasp, and get 10 Activities that Work on it without Food!
Being a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, I get asked questions about fine motor development all of the time by teachers and parents.
Most people know that fine motor skills are important but are not sure of what to expect at each age.
Or how to help their Kiddo develop stronger fine motor skills, like a Pincer Grasp.
So let’s dive in!
What is a Pincer Grasp?
A Pincer Grasp is when you hold a small object between your pointer finger and thumb. Like most fine motor skills, there is a natural progression in mastering this skill.
There are four ways people describe this grasp, although two mean the same thing: Crude Pincer Grasp, Inferior Pincer Grasp, Neat Pincer Grasp and Superior Pincer Grasp.
What is a Crude Pincer Grasp?
A Crude, also known as inferior, pincer grasp is when a kiddo holds a small object using the pads of their pointer finger and thumb and not the tips.
It begins to develop in babies around 7 months of age.
You will often first see it when babies are learning to self feed.
What is a Neat Pincer Grasp?
A Neat, also referred as superior, Pincer Grasp is when an object is held between the tips of your thumb and pointer finger.
This grasp begins to develop around 9 months of age and after a Crude Pincer Grasp has developed.
You will often see a baby start occasionally using this grasp when they are self feeding and also exploring smaller toys that they can pick up with one hand.
Why is Developing a Pincer Grasp Important?
Developing a Pincer Grasp is an important milestone in child development!
It sets the foundation for future skill growth!
A kiddo who uses a this grasp can explore small items more easily. Because objects are small, it begins to work on eye hand coordination.
Eye-hand coordination is the ability to control eye and hand movement in order to reach or grab an item accurately. It also is used to place a small item in a specific spot.
Learn more about how to improve Eye Hand Coordination!
A Pincer Grasp is used for self help skills including:
- tying shoes
- holding a pencil
My Kiddo Has A Pincer Grasp, Now What?
Once a child has developed a Pincer Grasp it is important to continue to give them opportunities to refine the skill.
And to increase the strength and mobility of these fingers. The easiest way to do that is through repetition and resistance.
It is important for toddler and preschoolers to strengthen their thumb and pointer finger so that it is easier for them to manipulate objects….. Especially zippers, buttons and a pencil.
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10 Pincer Grasp Activities without Food
# 1. Lace Board
Pulling and pushing a lace through holes is a great way to build finger strength.
Encourage your kiddo to pull the lace all the way through.
This activity is great for strengthening finger muscles. The string moving through the hole causes resistance.
# 2. Stringing Small Beads
String small beads onto a pipe cleaner, skewer, tooth picks, feather, or thick string.
By picking a material that causes resistance, the bead can not just drop to the end. Instead, your Kiddo needs to pull the bead.
This increases the time they are using the grasp and builds muscle. A double win!
# 3. Pulling Painters Tape
Painters tape is great for SO MANY fine motor skills! I honestly always have a roll in my bag.
While you hold the roll, have your Kiddo pull the tape using just their pincer grasp.
Kids love making obstacle courses with it, taping items to the floor or wall, creating a car course, and making numbers, letters, and shapes.
The possibilities are endless!
At the end of the activity, make sure you have your Kiddo peel the tape up again, again using only their pincer grasp!
# 4. Velcro Strip Animal Rescue
These velcro strips are so useful!
Wrap them around small toys, crayons, markers, or hide them around the room for a fine motor scavenger hunt!
In order to get them off, your Kiddo has to start and pull the velcro piece the entire way to set it free!
# 5. Play Dough Pinch
Roll play dough into a log using either one hand or two hands.
Then pinch along the “log” to squeeze the dough.
Need a DIY play dough recipe? Here is my favorite one!
# 6. Push Pin Pin Art – Kind of
Have an object created on a piece of paper using dots. Then have your kiddo peel small stickers of the pad using their thumb and pointer finger.
Cover the dots with the stickers. Here is an example of a push pin art object.
# 7. GEO Board
Boards with little pegs and rubber bands are fun for kids to be creative.
Teach your Kiddo to wrap one side of the rubber band around a peg.
Then use a pincer grasp to pull the rubber band to another peg to create a design!
# 8. Pulling Pipe Cleaners Through a Colander
Use multi-colored pipe cleaners and stick them through the holes of a colander.
Ask your Kiddo to push or pull pipe cleaners through the hole by categorizing colors, a certain number of pipe cleaners, or by completing a color pattern.
If the colander can be used only for this task, tie knots at both ends of the pipe cleaner to prevent it from falling out.
# 9. Push Buttons Through a Slit
Cut a slit in a plastic lid big enough that a button can fit through it.
Teach your kiddo to use their thumb and pointer finger to push it through the hole.
Kids will want to push the button through using their thumb only. Teach them to use both fingers to get the most out of this activity!
# 10. Peeling Stickers
Use stickers, window clings (Great for Holidays), or Reuseable stickers!
Peel the sticker or window cling off the paper that they come on and stick them to an appropriate surface.
What You Can Expect!
Your kiddo will develop their Neat Pincer Grasp over time.
You can expect to see them using a crude pincer grasp initially and then begin to occasionally use the tips of their fingers instead.
Here is a picture of a 3 year old using the pad of her thumb and the tip of her pointer finger. In this moment she is using a combination of the two grasps.
Because she will be writing soon, this is where I would prompt her to bend her thumb to use the tip of it.
Bending her thumb to use the tip will start developing her hand for moving her pencil to write a letter!
Learn more about pencil grasp development.
What If My Kiddo Can’t Do These Activities
All Kids develop at different rates. If your baby is 7 months old and does not have a crude pincer grasp, it is ok! This is especially true if they are not yet eating finger food.
If you have a Kiddo who is older that does not use a pincer grasp, try and give them more opportunities to develop this skill with frequent activities over several weeks.
Show them how to use the tips of their fingers and then celebrate their accomplishment when the do…. even if its only one time!
Pincer Grasp Tip from an Occupational Therapist
If your kiddo does not use their pointer finger and thumb for a pincer grasp try these tips:
- Have them hold something small with their middle, ring, and pointer finger while doing a pincer grasp activity
- Make the object they are grasping easy to move by starting it for them. Increase resistance later as this grasp develops
Also learn how core strengthening can impact fine motor skills.
Anytime you are concerned about your Kiddo’s fine motor development, talk to their pediatrician. They may benefit from an Occupational Therapy evaluation and treatment.
Now You are Set!
Have a friend who could benefit from reading this post? Share it with them!
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. I am sure that you are not the only one with the same question! I read all comments and would love to hear from you!
Checkout More Posts on Fine Motor Skills:
- How To Improve Eye Hand Coordination in Kids
- 5 Minute Skill Building Preschool Activities for Home
- Pincer Grasp Simplified: What, When and How It’s Used
- Neat Handwriting: An Easy 8 Step Guide for Parents
- Kindergarten Sight Word Activities Using Fine Motor Skills
- 10 Preschool Cutting Activities Without Worksheets
Kelly is a licensed Occupational Therapist with 15 years of experience servicing school-aged children and Early Intervention. She is the founder of OT Perspective and a mom to 4 children. To learn more about her, check out her About Me page, here.
the article is a great eye opener
Thank you for these ideas! I’m working with a student who continually uses pad to pad pincer grasp for so many activities. I’m definitely going to try some of these to try and get that thumb flexing!
Sorry for the delayed response. I hope these ideas helped you!