The ability to grasp objects is an important milestone for infants. When infants can grasp objects, not only does a world of play open to them, they are suddenly able to feed themselves. Grasping even plays a role when babies learn to walk. They can hold on to a caregiver's hand to practice steps or grip the edges of furniture to cruise around a room. Infant hand grasp and development follows a steady progression that parents can monitor.
Infants begin grasping as soon as they are born. They have what is called the Palmar Reflex, which is the ability to grip your finger if you stroke their palm, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Though the grasp might seem strong enough to hold her own weight, don't try it, the academy warns. Because it is a reflexive grip, you don't know when the infant will let go. This reflex will disappear around 5 to 6 months of old.
Between 3 and 4 months old, infants will start grasping on their own volition. If you place a toy in their hands, for example, they might grasp it and even shake it, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. But infants won't yet be able to reach out and grasp a toy placed near them, though they will take swipes at it. When infants are between 5 and 6 months of age, they will be able to use their fingers and palm to pick an object up from the ground or table near them, but they still won't use their thumbs, according to MedlinePlus.
Palmar Grasp with Thumb
After infants are comfortable using their four fingers and palm to grasp, they will start involving their thumbs. At around 7 months old, they will begin using a raking grasp to scoop up items, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Between 7 and 8 months old, they will grasp objects with all four fingers and their thumb, according to a web page on the University of Minnesota website. This is also the period when infants will be able to pass items from one hand to the other and will reach for something with both hands.
The pincer grasp is when babies can pick objects up using just their thumbs and forefingers. They will develop this skill somewhere between 8 and 12 months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Infants with this skill can be especially challenging, because they will pick up every small object they find and often try to put it in their mouths, regardless of whether the object is a dust bunny, crayon or piece of cereal.
Dropping and Throwing
As well as developing the pincer grasp, infants between 8 and 12 months old also learn how to open their fingers at will. This means they will be able to drop things on purpose, a game that will delight them for extended periods of time. As they get closer to a year old, they will also be able to throw things, adds The American Academy of Pediatrics.