ROCHEL LEARNS TO SAVE FOR A RAINY DAY
By about twelve months of age babies begin to master one of the most advanced motor skills of infancy–the true pincer grasp. This is the skill of using the thumb and first finger to hold something. Babies usually learn to wave their arms at first, then later they develop the ability to move their hands and fingers independently when grasping and reaching for objects. The pincer grasp is used to manipulate smaller objects such as food for eating, and as they grow older for buttons on clothing or a pencil for writing. This grasp is a fine motor skill. Fine motor skills are defined as movements involving the smaller muscles of the hand, fingers, and arms.
I decided to see what Rochel was interested in playing with and then observe what skills we could learn or improve from there. Rochel enjoyed playing with some rattles, putting some blocks in a box, and then rising to stand a few times. Soon, she showed me a piggy bank. Her mother told me that she was learning to put pennies in it. I watched her little fingers skillfully pick the flat pennies up off of the flat surface of the floor. Rochel tried putting the pennies in the slots which were not much wider than the width of the penny. Once in a while she got the penny in the slot, but not often. I saw that her fingers were getting in the way of the slot. I picked up a penny and held it between my thumb and first finger very clearly, by pulling my other fingers a bit backward so she could see that only these two fingers were in contact with the penny. I held my hand very still and said to her, “Rochel, hold the penny with two fingers.” I saw her closely look at my hand, and then she reached out to the penny and took it from me with her right thumb and first finger–a perfect pincer grasp! She held it just right between these two fingers! Then she began to put it in the slot, which was still not so easy, so I turned the bank around to line up the slot with the angle at which she was holding the penny. She was able to put the penny in a bit easier this time, and then continued using her pincer grasp to put pennies in the slot. But, the narrow slot made it difficult to succeed.
We found an empty water bottle, of average size, and began to use that as a bank. The opening is much wider at the top, yet small enough to create a challenge. Rochel began putting pennies into her new bank by using her pincer grasp to hold the pennies, place them inside of the opening, and then releasing them into the bank by opening her pincer grasp. These are the beginning, middle, and end components of the skill. Previously, the opening of the pincer grasp could not be developed with the bank which had narrow slots because it was too difficult for her to get the penny in the slot in the first place. She was very happy! Penny after penny went down into the new bank! She could also see what she was doing because the water-bottle-bank was see-through due to its clear plastic material. Rochel, therefore, developed an understanding of what she was doing. She could see where the pennies she released landed. After awhile, I picked up the bank with the more narrow slots and held it for her to try. This time she succeeded in putting the penny in the slot. She learned how to hold the penny with her pincer grasp, put the edge of it in the slot, and then let her grasp open so the penny could fall. She mastered the components of the skill. Previously she could pick up the penny and move it around until it would go in the slot only randomly. Now the skill is more of a developed skill with a beginning, middle and end. I turned to her mother and said, “Please tell her grandmother that today Rochel learned to save for a rainy day.”