But by around 6 months, that reflex fades, and your baby starts grasping things on purpose, says Sandy Schefkind, pediatric coordinator at the American Occupational Therapy Association. It's a sign his development is on track, since gripping requires planning, hand- eye coordination, muscle strength, and solid motor skills.
To help him along, clap with him or play peekaboo as soon as he's old enough, around 3 to 4 months. "It will build up his muscles and his fine motor control," says Schefkind. In the bath, let your child try to wring out a washcloth or squeeze a soft toy to build up his digits, too.
By 6 to 7 months, he'll begin to be able to transfer objects from hand to hand, gripping them as he goes, and around his first birthday, he'll have the pincer-grasp ability as well, which will let him hold something between his thumb and forefinger. As this skill develops, he'll be able to let it go, too -- so get ready for plenty of drop shipments of spaghetti off his high chair.