Developing A Child’s Pincer Grasp

by Fine Motor Skills0 comments

Is your child struggling to pick up small items from the floor, pick up food from their plate, hold and move a toothbrush or a pencil for writing, then this could be down to poor pincer grasp.

I work with children daily who require my input to develop their pincer grasp, so I thought I would provide some guidance and advice on activities that you could use at home, in school or on the go to support the development of your child’s pincer grasp.

What is a pincer grasp?

A Pincer Grasp enables a child to pick up small items using their thumb and index finger, a child would usually develop this grasp between 10-12 months. Having a strong pincer grasp is important for the development of fine motor skills for functional skills, such as: handwriting, feeding, tool use, dressing, playing, manipulation of toys and discovery. The pincer grasp is a natural part of a child’s hand grasp development and an important factor in developing independency within meaningful occupations.

Sensory feedback

Many children may have a poor pincer grasp due to the lack of sensory feedback and/or feelings within their fingertips, resulting in a larger grasp being used by the child or a lack of grasp being used to hold an item between the finger(s) and thumb. Therefore, before starting an activity that focuses on developing a pincer grasp, it is important to bring attention and awareness to the child’s hands and fingers. By bringing the brain’s attention to this part of the body, it will increase the sensory receptors within the hands and fingers, whilst increasing attention and awareness.

Sensory strategies to help (generic):

  • Theraputty.
  • Sensory trays with a variety of tactile input.
  • Hand massages and squeezes.
  • Finger aerobics.
  • Use a contrast with the hands and fingers: hot and cold, rough and soft, wet and dry activities.
  • Incy wincy spider nursery rhyme.
  • Use of a mirror to bring attention to the hands.

Movement and strength

The correct finger strength will allow a child to control the movement within the fingers required to pick up the items they need and use it appropriately for an activity. Many hand movements are required to be able to use a developed pincer grasp, these include: thumb opposition, thumb and finger flexion and extension, finger isolation, hand and finger manipulation. Below is a list of fun activities that aim to target the various finger movements a child requires and to develop finger strength.

Activities (generic):

  • Place different sized pom-poms into a container. Using tongs, pick up the pom–poms one at a time and place into the empty container.
  • Clip clothes pegs onto containers, around thick cardboard or at the end of a shirt.
  • Hide very small objects or toys in playdough and manipulate to find them.
  • Poke small marshmallows through toothpicks or tiny grapes and serve as snack (supervised due to sharp end).
  • Pick up small pasta in a sensory play activity.
  • Make a tower out of sugar cubes.
  • Pick up and peel stickers.
  • Try peeling colourful tape.
  • Theraputty for finger strengthening and finger isolation.
  • Make shapes with playdough and hide small items in to find and pick out.
  • Foam or soft ball for squeezing.
  • Posting coins or coloured lollipop sticks in various size slots.
  • Pop bubble wrap.
  • Finger painting encouraging the use of the index finger.
  • Ripping paper and squeezing it into balls.
  • Squeezing the trigger on a water spray bottle. 
  • Threading beads onto string.

If you would like to talk about any of the information within this blog or if you would like to learn more about pincer grasp, please get in contact with Seirrah OT. We have thousands of ideas that we can adapt to meet your child’s specific needs and facilitate workshops for parents to learn more about related topics.


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