Sunday, April 17, 2011

Games for Baby: Grasping Skills

There are ways to nurture the necessary motor skills and cognitive abilities needed to develop the ability to grasp and play with toys through basic activities.

Since babies with T21 usually have lower muscle tone and less sensitivity/ability to feel, you'll definitely want to provide Deep Pressure Tactile Therapy. The list below detail what can be expected of typical babies throughout the first year. Jett was able to reach these milestones on time, except the pincher grasp, which at 14 months, he's just beginning to develop due to his shorter, thicker hands. All children, typical or T21, develop at different rates. Use these ages as a guide so you know what you need to be working on and when. Be sure to celebrate each achievement before you focus on the next one to accomplish!

How Grasping Skills Develop

  • 3 Months: No longer newborns, babies can grasp objects placed in their hands, though they generally aren’t able to reach out and grab items. At this stage, simply offer her one toy at a time and allow her to develop her grip. A light weight rattle, one that's not too loud, will delight baby at this stage. If low muscle tone is a factor, you'll need to start with rattles made from soft materials and build up to a plastic rattle and then to a heavier wooden rattle.
  • 5 Months: Babies now can reach out and grab items willfully and independently. When offered a toy, babies will look back and forth between the toy and their hands. This is evidence of their developing ability to plan and coordinate their movements. When presenting toys to your baby, offer the toy slightly out of her reach and encourage her to grab it. But don't put it so far away that she can't get it, or she'll get frustrated. Give her a plentiful supply of objects she can easily grasp, too, such as soft blocks, plastic rings, and board books. As an extra challenge, present the toy so that she must reach across her chest to grab it, instead of right in front of her. (This helps with communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.)
  • 7 months: Growing 7 month old babies grasp using their entire hand to cup the object and may use their thumbs to press the object securely into their palm. Visual acuity and perception also come into play and babies are better able to manipulate objects in their hands.
  • 9 Months: They have now mastered the ability to pass objects back and forth between hands. Babies show increased muscular agility and can begin to process how behaviors are connected. Offer hand toys that encourage problem solving, like shape sorting blocks and nesting cups.
  • 11 months: Babies at this age are practically pros at manipulating objects. Their grasping ability may now include the ability to roll and throw small toys. Play simple games that utilize grasp and teach the concept of taking turns.
  • 12 months: Baby is working on perfecting her pincer grasp, which lets her pick up small objects between her thumb and forefinger. Give her ample opportunity to develop her fine motor skills, but make sure you stay close at hand. Babies love putting things in their mouth and small objects may be dangerous. Choose something edible, like Cheerios, steamed peas and carrots and never allow your baby to play with coins or small buttons. Encourage her to pick up finger foods -- she'll use her spoon or fork when she's ready.
  • This is a good time to give her stacking blocks or a linking chain. She may even hold up a toy and show her triumph. She may even be able to press the buttons on the toys such as a small keyboard or a musical push toy.
  • Since our children usually have shorter, thicker hands (Jett does) and a palmer crease (Jett doesn't), we need to help them build the muscle between their thumb and index finger. Simply play tugging games with colored rope, blankets or soft toys to help strengthen that area.
  • The pincer grasp is an important developmental milestone. It will lay the foundation of future activities such as coloring, writing and eating.

Using Gripping Abilities to Help Babies Think Ahead

You can monitor your baby's ability to grip and to plan movements with a simple activity using three hand-held toys. Not only does this exercise have babies hone their motor skills, it ties in higher-order problem solving skills.
  • Gather three toys which your baby can grasp easily.
  • Allow her to take one toy in each hand.
  • With a toy in each of her hands, give her the third toy.
  • Initially, she will likely be baffled and try to take the third toy without letting go of either one in her hand.
  • As her cognitive abilities progress, she will begin to put a toy down before attempting to grab a new one.

Why Do It

  • Engaging babies in developmentally appropriate activities is stimulating to their overall development.
  • Parents can use these activities as a simple tool to note their baby's progress.
  • It gives parents who may feel awkward around infants a structure for interaction and basic play.
  • It's an easy, cheap, and effective way of promoting physical and cognitive development.
Non Toxic Toy Recommendations


Magica Rattle $11
Organic Rattle $6
Jett's first rattle was the soft, light weight style pictured at right. Rattling Caterpiller $16 at blueberryforest
Selecta Sonello Jingling Baby Rattle and Grasping toy $16 at blueberryforest
Natural hardwood rattle $15 at

Grasping/Clutching Toys

Lamaze Peekaboo Clutch Cube $16 at Genius Babies, toys2wish4, novatechgadgets
Sunni $14
Organic Rattle $10
Haba Allez Grasping Toy $25 at blueberryforest
Sassy Baby Soft Photo Album $8 at babyearth
Haba Bear in Ring $13 at blueberryforest

Haba Triangle Grabbing Toy $11 at blueberryforest
Haba Ring Toy $13 at blueberryforest
Haba Soft Vegetable Set $14 at blueberryforest
Selecta Girali $14 at blueberryforest
Lamaze Garden Bug Foot Finder & Rattle Set $11-18 at babytoyyard, bed bath & beyond, babycatalog

Building Blocks

Discovery Blocks
Plan Building Block $32.47 at
IQ Baby Knock Knock Soft Blocks $25-30 by Small World Toys, babytoyyard, geniusbabies, kidssurplus
Classic ABC wooden blocks $15 from melissaanddoug
Haba Sticki Bricks Building Blocks $33 from blueberryforest
Haba Cordoba Building Blocks $45 from blueberryforest
Haba First Blocks $29 at blueberryforest
Haba Discovery Blocks $25 at blueberryforest

Shake and Sort
Shape Sorters

Whose House Soft Shape sorter toy $30 at babygenius,
Shape Sorting Cube $15 at melissaanddoug, toysrus
Qubix Shape Sorter $12 at amazon or onestepahead
Plan Toys Pull Along Shape Sorter Train $19 at babyearth
Educo Shake 'n Match Shape Sorter $18 at babyearth


Related Posts

Low Muscle Tone: What to Do
Massage Your Baby
Deep Pressure Tactile Therapy
Tummy Time
Teaching Your Baby to Crawl
Crawling: More Important than Sitting or Standing!...
Toys that Support Crawling
Milestones: Sitting
Milestones: Standing
Toys that Encourage Fine Motor Skills

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