PlayFine Motor Skills

Pincer Grasp Activities That Babies & Toddlers Absolutely Love {And Need!}

Pincer grasp activities are often underestimated. It’s only a few years later, when child starts school we start giving them proper attention.

A lot of times it’s when some issues start to emerge. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Babies and young toddlers are naturally driven to fine motor activities which includes pincer grasp in all its forms.

Our role is to offer as many opportunities to practice and refine that pincer grasp and fine motor skills as possible.

With the following easy and fun pincer grasp activities your little one will have the most engaging way to strengthen their hand muscles and work on their evolving pincer grasp.

Before we get to pincer grasp activities, let’s take a closer look at what actually pincer grasp is.

You’ll also discover types of grasp, how it develops by age and how we can improve pincer grasp with simple fine motor activities at home. Below you’ll also find the best toys for pincer grasp development.

What Is Pincer Grasp?

baby pincer grasp activity using pasta

The pincer grasp or also known as pincer grip is an important developmental milestone for a baby’s fine motor skills. It involves the child using his or her index finger and thumb to grab and hold an object.  

The pincer grasp is an important physical development because it allows a child to discover the world around them. Pincer grasp is used for self-feeding, playing with toys and manipulating different objects.

Later, this skill allows a child to button a shirt, hold a pencil for writing. All precision work and work with small objects requires use of pincer grasp.

At what age babies start to use pincer grasp?

Typically, babies will develop a pincer grasp around nine to ten months of age.  All children develop at different rates, so this can vary between children.

What is more important is to understand how pincer grasp develops.

Pincer Grasp Development

Babies will first start using a palmar grasp from about 3 to 5 months.

This is when they bring their fingers in towards their palm to curl their fingers around an object.  Then they use a raking grasp where they use their fingers like a rake. 

They curl their fingers over an object to pull it towards them.

Then, babies will start to develop the inferior pincer grasp when they are about 8 to 9 months old. At this point, the baby will practice picking up objects with the pads of their fingers (usually from thumb to middle finger) while moving their entire body or whole arm.  

At about 9 months of age, children learn to use the index finger as a separate “pointer finger” and to use the index and thumb together in a “pincer grasp”.

By about 10 to 12 months, babies have fine tuned this developmental milestone.

They will now use a neat pincer grasp also called a superior pincer grasp. 

They learn how to pick up small pieces of food or toys with the tips of their index finger and their thumbs.  

pincer grasp sensory play

Why is the Pincer Grasp Important?

The pincer grasp is an important milestone for babies.  They will use this grasp to pick up food, which gives them more independence.  It also helps them hold and manipulate objects for playing, which is important for social and emotional development.

Children also use the pincer grasp for getting dressed.  They use it to fasten buttons and to pull on clothing.  Again, this is a life skill that helps the child become more independent.

Later, children will use the pincer grasp for handwriting.  If there are problems with the pincer grasp or strength, children may struggle with writing.

If your child has not met this milestone and you are concerned, talk to your child’s doctor. 

There are activities that you can do with your child and therapies that can help children improve their pincer grasp through play and everyday activities.

3 Easy Pincer Grasp Activities Your Baby & Toddler Should Do Everyday

The beautify of these pincer grasp activities is that they require zero set up, no preparation whatsoever and they are naturally incorporated into your child’s everyday life.

1. Self Feeding

pincer grasp during self feeding

Small foods like cereal need precise movements in order to pick up. Use of pincer grasp is promoted naturally when you present your baby and toddler finger foods like cheese cut in cubes, fruit and vegetable cut into age-appropriate bite-size pieces.

It’s also super important to LET your child explore what’s on his/her plate just with their hands. Yes, it’s messy, yes, this is not how we supposed to eat at the table but it’s ESSENTIAL for young child’s discovery of the world and development of their own skills.

2. Scribbling

Make available to your child a piece of paper clipped to a board (or an easel) with some bees was crayons at all times. It’s impossible to hold and piece of crayon that small without using a pincer grasp so your little one will work on it naturally while scribbling.

3. Flipping Books

Flipping pages of board books and later paper books is not only a great activity to practice pincer grasp but also a precious habit for raising life-long readers.

Food Preparation & Pincer Grasp

Involve your toddler in their food preparation, especially snacks.

Activities such as peeling a banana, peeling a tangerine (see photo above) and even cracking the egg open require strong hand muscles and intentional use of pincer grasp.

Exploring Nature Indoors & Outdoors With Pincer Grasp

pincer grasp activities with natural materials

Whenever possible give your little one opportunities to explore in the nature indoors and outdoors. Ripping and tearing leaves, grass, peeling corn, digging their fingers in squishy pumpkin gut, melon or watermelon.

Pasta & Bread Dough

If you ever make fresh pasta or make a homemade bread, focaccia or pizza make sure to do it together with your little one, no matter how young they are. Let them touch and explore the dough. 

If you’re not into baking you can easily offer your child playdough, storebought or make your own no cook playdough.

More  Pincer Grasp Activities To Try

Pincer Grasp Activities Using Pasta

Pasta is one of my favorite loose parts for babies & toddlers to play with (under close adult supervision!)

It’s 100% natural material that can very in shape and size and of course require pincer grasp use for manipulation.

Get ideas of pincer grasp activities to do using pasta here:

12+ Pasta Posting Activities For Babies & Toddlers

4 Easy Pasta Threading Activities For Toddlers

Pincer Grasp Activities Using Contact Paper (Sticky Paper)

Contact paper makes for a great fine motor skill activity that focuses specifically on pincer grasp. All you need is to tape a piece of contact paper to the wall (or window) sticky side facing outwards. Give your little one some loose parts that could stick to the contact paper. Some materials include: small pieces of color paper, yarn, foam shapes, cotton pads, pom poms, pumpkin seeds even some leaves that you can previously collect in your backyard.

You can even take this pincer grasp activity to the next level by making this super simple and super cute Sticky Pumpkin Activity & Craft  with real pumpkin seeds.

Pincer Grasp Activities Using  Dot Stickers or Washi Tape

Probably the easiest activity of all.

Simply stick dot stickers on a tray or on other smooth surface and let your little one do the work. You’ll be amazed how such simple activity is so engaging and fascinating for little kids. It requires enormous concentration and pincer grip work.

While working on pincer grasp you can also revisit colors by using  stickers of different colors or even introduce early math concepts such as long/short, longer/shorter using different size of washi tape cuts.

Pincer Grasp & Playdough Play

Give your little one a piece of playdough and a couple of loose parts.

Observe how they poke, squeeze and roll the dough, hiding loose parts such as pasta (I told you it’s such a versatile material LOL) and then picking them out.

Check Also: Playdough Play & Why It’s So Good For Little Hands

More Materials That Are Helpful In Pincer Grasp Development

pincer grasp materials



Elastic Bands

Pom Poms

Tools – tongs, tweezers

Cloth pins

The list can go on and on. Once you start offering some pincer grasp activities to your child and observe how they use their fingers to manipulate different objects you’ll start to see yourself different materials around the house that can be used for pincer grasp development.

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