Hesperian Health Guides
Activities to Help Develop Gripping, Reaching, and Hand‑Eye Coordination
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|Most babies are born with a ‘grasping reflex’. If you put your finger in their hand, the hand automatically grips it— so tightly you can lift up the child.|
Usually this reflex goes away, and gradually the baby learns to hold things and let go as she chooses.
Babies who are slow to develop sometimes have little or no ‘grasping reflex’ and are slow to learn to hold things. For such children, these activities may help.
|If she keeps her hand closed, stroke the outer edge of the hand from little finger to wrist.||This often causes the baby to lift and open her hand, and to grip your finger.|
CAUTION! In a child with spasticity, stroking the back of the hand may cause her to grip or open the hand stiffly without control. If so, do not do it, but look for ways that give her more control.
|When the child opens her hands well, but has trouble holding on,|
|Place an object in her hand, and bend her fingers around it. Be sure the thumb is opposite the fingers.||Gradually let go of her hand and pull the object up against her fingers or twist it from side to side.||When you think she has a firm grip, let go.|
|Repeat several times in each of the child’s hands.|
|After the child can hold an object placed in her hand, encourage her to reach and grasp an object that just touches her fingertips. First touch the top of her hand—then place it below her fingertips.||Encourage the baby to grasp by offering her rattles, bells, colorful toys, or something to eat on a stick.|
Hang interesting toys, bells, and rattles where the child can see and reach for them.
|This way the child learns to move her hand forward to take hold of a toy.||If the child shows no awareness of her hand, hang little bells from her wrist.|
|At first a child can only grasp large objects with her whole hand. As she grows she will be able to pick up and hold smaller things with thumb and fingers. Help her do this by playing with objects of different sizes.||To help strengthen grip, play ‘tug-of-war’ with the child—making it a fun game.|
Pull hard! Good!
|As the child gains more and more control, introduce toys and games that help develop hand-eye coordination.||Make games of putting things in and out of boxes and jars.|
Playing with toys and imitating the work and play of others helps the child gain more skillful use of his hands.