Your Baby’s Small Muscle Movement: Pinching, Passing, and Grabbing (Oh My!)

Your Baby’s Small Muscle Movement: Pinching, Passing, and Grabbing (Oh My!)

Pinching, passing, and grabbing are just a few of the fine motor activities that you might have noticed your baby doing recently. You may have also seen her smoothly pass a toy from one hand to the other and grab things with deliberate actions.1,2 This ability to coordinate her eyes and hands while exploring or holding objects, also known as Small Muscle Movement and Dexterity, is one of the major developmental milestones that happens around 6-9 months old.

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Small Muscle Movement and Dexterity Beginning Development

With her growing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, you may see your baby hold a block in each hand and bang them together.3 This is an easy task for an adult, but one that actually requires quite a bit of coordination for an infant! She will continue to explore her body and may try using her hands to put her toes in her mouth.1 She may also begin to copy some simple gestures, such as waving good-bye or trying to clap her hands together.1

Manual dexterity will improve a great deal during your baby’s 6-9 month period. She will go from grasping objects with her whole hand to exploring the pincer grasp3,4 (i.e. picking things up with one’s thumb and forefinger). The pincer grasp makes it easier to bring objects to her mouth, a new and different way to explore the world, as you’ll notice when she tries to taste and chew everything in sight and within reach! So, it’s important at this age to provide toys and books that are safe, age appropriate, and able to withstand the chewing as well as the drooling associated with teething.

Hand Dominance

You may start to wonder, will John be a righty or a lefty? Hand preference or dominance is a fun development that may start to show itself when she is 6-9 months old, though you won’t truly be able to determine this until she is three years old, or even older.5 In fact, if John appears to rely on one hand exclusively before the age of 18 months, consider discussing this development with her pediatrician as “early hand dominance may be a sign of motor development problems.”5

So, while it may take a while to be sure of your little one’s hand dominance, it’s fun to be on the lookout. And remember, there’s no difference in skills, smarts, or abilities between one hand preference or another, so don’t try to force her to be one or the other.6 It is “unlikely to work in the long run and will only confuse or frustrate [her] along the way.”5 As for the well known belief that “left-handed people have an advantage in a wide range of sports?”6 This piece of trivia comes from the fact that righties are just not used to playing against lefties.

Play Tips:

Do you want to know how you can support your baby’s development of these Small Muscle Movement and Dexterity skills at this age? It’s easy! Read on for some simple tips to incorporate into your daily play time together.

  1. Provide clean and safe toys for your child to hold and mouth.2 Your baby is interested in experiencing everything she can get her hands on at this point. So offer her a variety of safe, non-toxic toys and encourage her to learn like a scientist, exploring and observing with her different senses.
  2. Create safe and interesting environments for your baby to discover new objects. Create a play space on the floor for her to freely explore. Make the space inviting with a soft blanket and colorful, child-safe toys and objects. She is becoming more mobile at this age, so she will love to take advantage of her newfound motor skills in this inviting play land. Be sure to clear the play area from any potential choking hazards, fragile objects, and other safety concerns.
  3. Offer a variety of novel toys to explore. Capture your baby’s attention by showing her an interesting toy or object. Rotate toys often, as the novelty of different toys will encourage her Curiosity and Initiative.8 Again, do not use toys or objects that are choking hazards.

(SPECIAL OFFER: Sign up for Playful Bee’s Bee Well developmental learning program to give your baby the best start in life. The first 10,000 children enroll for FREE! Sign up today.)

Developmental Milestones:

Has your baby achieved the following Small Muscle Movement and Dexterity and Hand-Eye Coordination developmental milestones yet? If yes, check off all the skill(s) she has already mastered to date using Playful Bee’s developmental milestones tracker. It’s absolutely FREE and easy to use, just click HERE!

  • Smoothly passes object from one hand to the other.



1Maryland State Department of Education (2010). Healthy Beginnings: Supporting Development and Learning from Birth through Three Years of Age.

2Washington State Department of Early Learning (2012). Washington State Early Learning and Development Guidelines: Birth through 3rd Grade.

3Illinois State Board of Education. For Children Birth to Age Three: Illinois Early Learning Guidelines.

4Baby Center Medical Advisory Board. Developmental Milestones: Grasping. Baby CenterRetrieved January 29, 2014, from

5Jana, Laura. When Will I Know Whether My Baby Is a Righty or a Lefty? Baby Center. Retrieved January 29, 2014, from

6Better Health Channel. Left-Handedness. Better Health Channel. Retrieved January 29, 2014, from

7Stamm, Jill, Ph.D., and Spencer, Paula (2007). Bright from the Start. New York, NY: Gotham Books.

Playful Bee

Education Team at Playful Bee
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