Are you a parent, educator or therapist trying to help a child with Down syndrome (or any of the many low-muscle tone conditions) develop an effective pincer grasp? The question that comes to mind is: Should you use known therapy products or make your own activities?

Before we address what you may do to improve the child’s pincer grasp, we need to explain what the pincer grasp is and why it is so important? When we speak about the pincer grasp, we are referring to the thumb-and-forefinger motion that is involved to pick-up and manipulate small objects.

When we pick up a needle, button a shirt, or zip-up our pants, we are using the pincer grasp. Have you ever thought about how essential it is for us to coordinate a spoon or a fork carefully in order to eat three times a day?

For most of us, we learn these skills quite easily. For children with Down syndrome and other conditions, they need to work very hard at developing their fingers and muscles. Making things fun is key.

My son loves to work his pincer grasp with this fun activity!Fun Self-Made Container

I redesigned a beverage container. I taped it all around and cut a square shape into it (the same size as a wooden block). The first step was to show my son several times how I picked up the block with a pincer grasp. Then I had to put the block next to the square-shaped opening. Finally, I pushed it inside with force. Since the bottom of the container was metal, it made a wonderful sound when the block fell. The sound reassured my son that he successfully accomplished the task.

He does not think he is working. He thinks it’s a game. Key Goals: To get the child to work very hard but to make sure he is enjoying it. Repeat the exercise several times to teach the child “if I push this block through the opening, then I am “causing” it to make a real cool sound!

This is the way we hang our clothes and work our hands early in the morning!Fun Home Activity!

This activity is great to conduct in the morning.

The pinching motion of opening and closing a clothespin is a terrific exercise for fingers while also strengthening the child’s hand muscles.

To get started, I tied each end of a clothesline to a dining room chair (you can also use rope or a wire). One by one, I picked up colored clothespins using the pincer grasp. I added each color pin to the line. As I released the clothespin and it swung from the line, I would say, “I did it.”

Then I took my son’s hand and guided his fingers into the pincer grasp to pick up a pink clothespin. Then I helped him to pinch it open. I gently guided his hand to the clothes line and helped him attach the pink clothes pin to the line until it swung successfully. I looked at him and said, “You did it. Good job!”

We repeated the task over and over again. After several weeks of doing this exercise together, he learned to pick up one or two of them himself and accomplish the entire task independently. Of course, I never leave him unattended.

Mission accomplished! You can create too!
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