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Your Baby's Developing Grip

After your baby was born, you probably marveled at what strong fingers he had. Not to take anything away from your amazing offspring, but it's actually not that unusual: Infants are programmed with a reflex that makes them curl their fingers tightly when something sweeps their palm.

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.