Milestone Mondays- Progression of Reaching and Grasping

This is an important milestone that is noticed almost immediately after birth with the Grasping Reflex.  It’s also a milestone that has gradual development from newborn up until children are nearly 11 years old!

This info was gathered from BabyCenter.com and from text: Physical Therapy for Children by Campbell

First, what is a Grasping Reflex?

 If you place your finger or other slim object in your baby’s palm, his fingers will grasp the object tightly. Be careful, though, because your baby cannot control this reflex. If you place a rattle in your baby’s hand, for example, he could unexpectedly let go and drop it on his head. Your baby’s grip is so strong, you might notice that you can pull him up when he’s gripping both your fingers. Again, watch out since he could let go at any moment and fall backward, causing injury.  (source)

Development of grasping and reaching:

Newborn to 2 months

From BabyCenter

Babies are born with the grasping reflex—touch your baby’s palm and she’ll curl her tiny fingers around yours. But these movements are instinctual and involuntary for the first eight weeks.

During this time, your baby’s hands will mostly be clenched in a fist, but she’ll soon begin to open and close them on purpose and to examine them. She may even try to grasp soft objects, such as a stuffed animal.

From PT for Children

Under 2 months, children mostly make ballistic movements- meaning their arms are making big movements without very much accuracy.  The hand travels wherever their limb travels as it makes reaching movements.  Which is why most hanging toys for newborns are big targets that can be moved easily when hit.

Around 2 months, hand function begins to be separated from arm function, and the hand becomes more fisted with reaching movements as opposed to open with reaching when a child is under 2 months.

Here’s a video of  newborn reaching with ballistic movements

3 months

From BabyCenter

Your baby still can’t grab what she wants accurately, but she can bat at toys over and over. She’s also developing her hand-eye coordination, noticing things she’d like to hold and attempting to reach for them. With a floor gym, your child can lie on a soft mat and swipe at fun things hanging above her.

From PT for Children

Around 3 months, hand becomes open again with reaching. Vision is improving with development of binocular coordination- meaning eyes can work together now to tell how close or far objects are.

Here’s a video of a baby reaching for toys with hand open and batting at toy:

4 to 8 months:

From BabyCenter

At 4 months, your baby can pick up large objects, such as blocks. She won’t be able to grab smaller objects, like peas, until she develops better finger dexterity.

Shortly before she gets her first tooth (usually between 4 and 7 months), your baby will start picking up items here and there so she can put them in her mouth. If she’s eating solids, she won’t be able to hold a baby spoon steady, but she’ll try.

She can rake an object toward herself, and will start moving objects from one hand to the other. It’s a good idea to keep valuables out of her reach from now on. And make sure your home is childproofed against small objects that she could choke on.

From PT for Children

At 4 months- babies begin to correct the direction their hand is going in as they reach for a toy.

At 5-6 months, they begin to adjust their grip position depending on an object’s size

9 to 12 months

From BabyCenter

With little effort, your baby can pick up objects now. And her preference for her left or right hand is emerging, though you won’t be able to determine true left- or right-handedness until she’s 2 or 3 years old.

She’s also perfecting her pincer grasp, which lets her pick up small objects between her thumb and forefinger.

With her increased coordination, she’ll soon be able to use a spoon and fork fairly well at mealtime, though she may prefer to hold the utensil in one hand while using her fingers to actually eat. You’ll probably have to help her hold the spoon or fork when you show her how to use it, but she’ll get the hang of it more quickly if you let her give it a few tries at every meal.

From PT for Children

Around 9 months- babies now have a reliable reaching pattern with appropriate grasp at the end of the reach.  This means that their arm travels in the correct direction and their hand opens at the appropriate time to close on an object.

From 9-13 months, infants begin to anticipate the object’s size and adjust their grasp appropriately and may exaggerate their grasp to ensure grasping the object

Here’s a video of babies around 9-12 months, where you can observe their accurate reaching and grasping:

For information on specific development of Grasping from newborns to infants, here’s a great word doc I found googling grasps, has informative pictures and simple basic info on grasps.- Click here, it’s a download from columbia.edu

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Categories: Child Development, Milestone Mondays

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