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Baby Milestone: Grasping

Nothing's quite as heart-melting as a newborn's tiny fingers wrapped around yours. But in these early weeks, grasping is merely a reflex; a baby's hand will automatically close around whatever's put into it.

By 2 months, that reflex begins to diminish. Your baby's previously clenched fists open up, and she'll try to clutch anything that catches her eye. At first, she'll go for things she can grab easily, like hair or clothing, and may hold them to her mouth to explore. These first grasps are usually brief and shaky, "but with time, babies refine their movements," says Kristin Hannibal, M.D., clinical director of the Primary Care Center at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

At about 4 months, babies can hold an item long enough to maneuver it  -- even a difficult thing like a plastic toy.

When they reach 6 months, they can stretch and grab objects that once were out of range and transfer them from hand to hand.

By 9 months, most babies have developed the ability to pick up very small objects between their index finger and their thumb (a move called the pincer grasp).

Encourage your child by giving her soft, lightweight objects with interesting textures and tags to investigate. As your baby grows, grasping becomes the foundation for countless skills, from coloring to feeding herself. Once she gets her hands on things, there's no stopping her!