Developmental Process in Learning to Grasp

In her book The Comprehending Hand, Dr. Lilli Nielsen lists the various steps in the developmental process involved in the ability to grasp:

hanging position board2

  • hand to mouth
  • hand to hand
  • objects held in hand
  • objects held in hand put to mouth
  • losing objects
  • objects transferred from one hand to the other
  • reaching out for objects
  • knocking objects on the table
  • handling of objects
  • throwing objects
  • knocking two objects against each other
  • pincer grasp -- for beginners
  • pointing to objects
  • taking objects
  • putting objects inside each other
  • building with objects

Activities for Developing Finger Movements and Finger Strength

items to poke

  • Crumpling large pieces of paper (newspaper, brown paper)
  • Crumpling small pieces of paper (tissue)
  • Squeezing an ear-syringe (with and without water)
  • Zipping zippers
  • Flattening balls of clay with hands, fists
  • Flattening balls of clay with a flat piece of wood
  • Rolling out balls of clay with a pastry roller
  • Pressing on push-buttons (which can give different sounds)
  • Turning keys in locks
  • Taking tops off tins
  • Making holes in lumps of clay with fingers
  • Putting matches, different kinds of sticks, in clay
  • Pushing thumb-tacks into cardboard, flamingo, softer/harder pieces of wood)zipper
  • Cutting with scissors -- first in the air, then drinking straws, paper, cardboard
  • Using a perforator, stapling machine
  • Opening and closing files
  • Putting clothed pegs on cardboard, wooden slats, lines
  • Winding elastic between and around pegs, hooks, legs of stool, etc.
  • Winding elastic around objects (cardboard rolls, boxes)
  • Putting rubber bands on cardboard rolls, tubes, etc.
  • Matching stockings, turning them inside out
  • Opening and shutting purses, bags with different kinds of clasps, snap fasteners, etc.
  • Fastening and unfastening belts
  • Breaking macaroni, twigs, ice-cream sticks
  • Playing tiddlywinks
  • Opening small packets of raisins
  • Opening small face-cream bottles, yubes, jars and rubbing contents on fingers, legs, face
  • Scrubbing with brushespeeling orange
  • "Sewing" wire through holes in hard board
  • Sewing with needle and thread through holes in hard board
  • Putting things in pockets and taking them out
  • Turning pepper mill (use salt), musical boxes, ratchet toys, parsley rollers (empty, later full)
  • Using dustpan and brush
  • Inflating inner tubes or balls with a pump
  • Plucking grass
  • Wringing water from sponges, cloths (wash-, floor-, etc.)
  • Watering with toy, small and large watering cans
  • Peeling oranges
  • Grating carrots, apples
  • Screwing and unscrewing large and small nuts and bolts (start with wing nuts)
  • Winding up kitchen timers, alarm clocks
  • Pulling paper off kitchen paper rolls (paper towel), etc.
  • Using rubber bulb-horns
  • Ringing bicycle bells
  • Winding up musical toys


Nielsen, Lilli.  The Comprehending Hand.  SIKON: 1994.

grasp download

Download "Promoting Comprehending Hands Through Active Learning" by Patty Obrzut, M.S., O.T.R/L


grasping collage