How Your Baby Learns To Grasp

Everything Under Control! – How The Baby Learns To Grasp

A baby is born with an innate, simple grasping reflex, but this disappears after a few months. Only gradually does the little person learn to use his or her hands in a targeted manner? Seeing, touching, feeling, and handling things – countless sensory and motor experiences are part of this. The most important developmental steps are already taken by the little ones in the first year of life.

Until a baby is able to deliberately reach for objects and consciously let go of them again, it has many sensory experiences that also stimulate its cognitive processes.
At first, little hands tend to pluck at articles of clothing or the bedspread by chance – this is known as tactile grasping. When the child raises its arms in the supine position around the third month, it can see its hands. Now it begins to play with its fingers and holds a rattle placed in its hand. Its eyes are vigilantly watching everything that its hands are doing. In the fifth month, the baby also uses its mouth to get a better idea of the shape and size of the objects it grabs. The senses play an important role in the development of grasping: not only seeing, feeling, and touching, but also tasting, smelling, and hearing. The baby perceives the properties of the toys with all the senses, as it were.

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Parents should therefore also allow some things to go into the mouth again and again.
It is important that an object cannot injure the sensitive oral cavity or cause the child to swallow it, and that the surface is non-toxic. Sometimes one hand, sometimes the other!

At five to six months, the baby purposefully grabs toys, switches them from one hand to the other and can hold two things at the same time. He plays with them, knocks them together or on the floor and throws them away again. In this way, the child learns to play with both hands, but also to make isolated movements with each hand. Over time, a holding hand and an active hand develop. In the case of more delicate activities, the more skilled hand is used more often over time, and thus becomes more dominant. This already initiates right- or left-handedness, which develops by the middle of the second year of life.

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At six to seven months, the baby is able to oppose the thumb to its other fingers and grasp smaller things in a “pincer grip”.
Only with time do the index finger and thumb bend. Thus, by about the tenth month, the child can already pick up crumbs and lint. This “pincer grip” is further refined beyond the first year of life until the child can coordinate its fingers and use them in a finely dosed manner. Later, they will need this ability above all for painting and writing.

Every Child Learns Individually

But what if a baby’s development does not proceed in this way? “Individual developmental steps can be delayed by one to two months without this being a cause for alarm,” emphasizes occupational therapist Annette Kosel from the Social Pediatric Center at the Children’s Hospital in Cologne. “Children born prematurely may take even more time with these developmental steps. Grasping development is only noticeably delayed if a child is still grasping with the whole hand at the end of the second year of life.”

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Parents can help their offspring with their development.
The best way is to give their baby a variety of different materials to play with: firm and rough, soft and fluffy, round or smooth… Safety-tested baby toys made of wood, plastic, or fabric are suitable, as are everyday objects such as cooking spoons, cardboard rolls, or small cloths. So the child can make countless experiences in the first year of life – and soon has everything under control!

On The Subject: Will My Baby Be Left- Or Right-Handed?

Depending on the baby, this trend can show itself differently. It usually becomes apparent after about one year whether your baby will write with the left or right hand in the future. However, it initially indicates a trend. It is only after the 2nd birthday that it is decided which dominant hand your child will have.

The so-called “pincer grip” – when your baby grasps with the index finger and thumb – will perform approximately after the first year of life. Before that, it is not yet able to grasp objects in this way.

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If this is well-practiced for your little one, you will quickly notice that your baby realizes even faster than small blocks, etc. can also be thrown excellently! Especially if mom and dad are always diligently picking things up again – a very nice game. Perhaps at this time, you can unbeaten on softer balls to play with.


Is your baby already a little bigger? Offer your baby finger food, small vegetable sticks are great for such experiments. This way you can encourage your baby to reach for them. Alternatively, you can use something sweet like a banana or apples. Just try out what tastes better for your rascal!

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