The groundbreaking studies of Piaget have shown the many aspects of cognitive and intellectual developmental markers. As a certified teacher, much of my collegiate education revolved around the psyche of the pre-adult mind. The work of Jean Piaget will forever be crucial in understanding the learning processes. The most important point Piaget makes, in my opinion, is that LEARNING IS PROVOKED AND NOT SPONTANEOUS! (1). This is why socialization and play, whether with peers or adults, is so vitally important to the development of logic (2). Play is a non-threatening way to learn and completely exploratory; it indicates that there is no danger and a child may explore freely and creatively (3).
SO what does this have to do with a pincer grasp? Well, how can one play if they cannot interact with their own surroundings? As humans, we have a greater ability to do so than any other living creature on Earth both by logic and physical ability. You use your thumb daily. Some say it is the one thing that truly separates us from the animal world. Some are just glad they have one that works the way it does. But do you realize how important it is for infants to recognize its ability and practice using both the thumb and pointer finger on a daily basis? Visual processing, cognitive development, and fine motor development are just a few reasons why you should encourage a great pincer grasp in your children (no matter the age) (5).
It’s all second nature to you now. In fact, you are so automated that your focus in unloading the groceries from the car is already running through scenarios of shifting bags to get the door open and placing the cold bags by the refrigerator rather than the process of actually lifting each bag. This is why sometimes you may put incredibly too much force into picking up a lightweight bag. Your brain told you it was heavy because it was big and full, when in reality it was just toilet paper and bananas.
You think logically, because you have been trained over time to do so. You have built a cognitive structure for yourself so that now you are unaware of the many steps you are performing to achieve your desired outcome. However, babies need that encouragement. They need to be able to understand that they can’t touch a hot oven, because it will burn them. They must learn to put two and two together. Therefore, beyond just the fine motor abilities to grasp something, neurological milestones are met when a child learns to associate actions and outcomes. Play, in general, allows for the development of logic and problem solving even in the earliest forms (7). And while we personally don’t experience the joys of play in eating and common chores, there is a fine line between ludic and non-ludic activities; therefore, encouraging joy and fun in simple tasks quickly changes the experience! (8).
From tiny little seeds to big chunky puzzles, babies and kids can learn to use their pincer grasp appropriately. In so doing, they learn fine motor skills and visual cues. By instinct, babies tend to power grasp; however the majority of our day is through precision grasping; therefore, by two, babies have usually learned that size is the general factor over shape that requires a power grasp (9). This, in my opinion, is why it’s important to let children play with smaller items. They can learn to associate smaller objects with (and can practice) a precise pincer motion. While no child should be left unsupervised with any sort of small item, some of the safer play items for babies 6 months and up are green bean seeds from cooked green beans, cooked rice, berries, and small pieces of cooked veggies (like squash). All are relatively squishy, but are great small items to use for practice play.
|Using food for pincer practice|
While adult modeling does inspire a child, peer play is where learning tends to happen most rapidly because even babies can compete and even toddlers can collaborate (10). Babies begin observing and understanding logic even in the early months of life. Take advantage of their play time to help them explore and learn the world around them!
Recommended Pincer-Related Play:
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Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living on a farm in New England. She believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience and has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development. She is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!