Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

February 7, 2014

All in a hand’s work

Hands are essential for eating, dressing, arts and crafts, and turning a key. They are used daily for almost everything we do. The function and development of hands is actually quite complex.

As an infant, children use a gross grasp, meaning that the hand fists over something such as a finger or rattle to hold onto briefly. As the child develops, the way the child grasps changes by using the thumb and index finger to hold onto objects instead of the whole fist. The development of the hand continues with increased specialization on both sides of the hand with the hand divided in half by an imaginary line right between the index and middle fingers. It is this division of the hand that allows for a power grasp on the pinky side (think holding on to a trapeze bar). The other half of the hand (thumb side) is where dexterity develops. Isolating the index finger for pointing and developing a pincer grasp is important for this side of the hand. Using a pincer grasp to pick up cheerio‚Äôs  and bringing small items from the palm of the hand up to the pincer fingers are great examples of how fingers work together to perform more controlled fine motor movements.

Two areas where specialized hand skills are important include School readiness (writing and cutting skills), and Areas of Daily Living (ADLs) including dressing (buttoning, zipping), eating, playing, bathing, and grooming.

An occupational therapist is skilled in assessing hand function and development. If your child is having difficulties with any of these skills please contact Melissa Petcu at 704-332-4837 ext 118.