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 Explore grasp development in early childhood, from reflexive grips to confident mastery

Grasp Development in Early Childhood

Grasp Development in Early Childhood

A child’s grasp development begins at birth and continues well into their toddler years. It is an incredible phase in their growing years, as you see your child taking their first step and holding your fingers in their tiny hands.

As the large muscles develop, helping your child master gross motor skills of walking and running, it also becomes important to ensure that their fine motor skills are developing as well.

In the midst of enjoying the various milestones of your child’s development, their little hands go exploring and set the foundation for a lifetime of fine motor skills. 

Let’s go through the various stages of grasp development that your child will go through in the first year.

Hand Grasp Milestones during the First Year of Development:

Reflexive Palmer grasp (at birth)

This reflex develops at the very early stage of a child’s development, taking place in the fetal stage. When any object is placed in an infant’s palm, the fingers flex reflexively around the object. It’s a surprisingly powerful hold for such tiny hands and can even support their weight. You can also trigger it with just a gentle rub on the back or side of their hand. However, don’t be surprised if your little one suddenly lets go without warning. 

Voluntary Palmer grasp (3 months)

At this stage, your child will immediately wrap all their fingers around your finger or an object. This is where your kid should be expressing a voluntary grasp to take up varied-sized items.

Radial Palmer grasp (6 months)

You will notice your child will now be able to use their thumbs more to hold onto objects.

Raking grasp (8 months) 

A raking grasp comes about at the ages of 7 and 8 months as they start using their fingers other than their thumb. Curling the top of the fingers over the object to pull objects towards them. 

Inferior Pincer grasp (9-10 months)

At this age, your child will be entering the Inferior Pincer Grasp, which is all about the placement of the fingertips. Your child will be using their index and thumb and the fingers' pads for this grasp development.

Mature pincer grasp 

In mature pincer grasp, your child will use the tips of the pointer finger and thumb together to touch each other or an object they are holding.

Palmer Supinate grasp 

It’s a fist grip with the thumb curled around the top of the writing tools. Typically, this is followed by scribbling.

Digital pronate grasp 

Now your child will have a better grasp development in their hands as the fingers are pointed down towards the bottom of the writing tool. Your child will also start using all the fingers along with the movement of the whole arm when practicing the style of writing.

Grasp Development in Toddler

Toddlers need fine motor skills not only for their academic and cognitive development but also to develop so that they can develop related skills that suddenly capture their attention. These include painting, drawing, finger feeding, and crafts like buttoning and tying.

Tripod grasp development

Following the ages of two and three years old, it will take a further year to two years for the child’s hand to shift from relaxing the hand during drawing and writing to gripping the pencil firmly with the index finger and thumb in a tripod grasp.

Cognitive development 

The development of fine motor skills in early childhood is critical to a child’s cognitive development, which is needed to succeed in school.

Physical development 

For a child, there is always a possibility of physical development occurring along with grasp development, as there is a lot of muscular growth and training. As your child develops smaller muscles on their hands, wrist, and fingers, they can make large motor movements from the shoulder to their fine motor movement in their hands and wrist. By doing so, your child will be able to have greater control over fine motor tasks, such as drawing, cutting, and eating.  


By the age of 18 months, you will notice your toddler starting to feed themselves or begin taking interest in food items. It’s a great time to introduce and provide your child with a healthy range of foods that are easy for them to grasp and eat with their hands. You can also introduce a spoon during this time if your toddler is showing control over their palmar grip with small objects.   

Development of grasp through Art

Since fine motor coordination begins at the age of 1, making free-hand scribbles is an excellent way to help your child develop their small hand and wrist muscles. At about the age of two, your child begins to draw lines and circles. In order to hold crayons and pencils in a way that your toddler finds manageable, they will use either their full fist or the Palmer grip.

Cutting skills development 

By the age of 18 months, you can introduce your child to tearing paper by hand and holding a pair of toddler scissors by gripping them with two hands. However, it’s safest to introduce toddler scissors when you are sure that your toddler can hold themselves up properly, balance, and stand without wobbling and can control their shoulders, wrists, and fingers without difficulty. 

In the incredible journey of your child’s growth, grasp development is like a series of magic moments, from the first surprising grip to mastering the skills of self-feeding and scribbling. With the development of fine motor skills, they’re not just learning to grab things but also going through the phase of clutching reflexively to confidently holding crayons, which will help them in school, in play, and in everyday tasks.

Now, as your toddler starts feeding themselves and exploring art, remember: each time they pick up a crayon or take a bite, they’re not just playing but also developing essential skills. In toddlers, this fine motor skills development is necessary in order for them to develop cognitively, physically, academically, and independently in the world that they are brought into.

Your child’s learning process and grasp development are hands-on ways of exploring and conquering their world, one grip at a time. Cheers to the incredible adventure ahead!

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