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Montessori in a Minute: Hand Tools for Pincer Grasp

Pincer grip or grasp is an essential fine motor skill that helps children independently feed themselves, get dressed using buttons and zippers, and hold a writing utensil. Teachers help students develop and strengthen their pincer grip using their index and middle finger and thumb to grab and grip items at the Toddler, Bridge Primary, and Primary levels.

The usual grasping progression from birth is from a full-fist grip to a four-finger grasp to a more refined pincer grasp. Pincer grip mastery helps children progress successfully in writing, drawing, painting, and academic confidence.

Classroom Tools That Refine Pincer Grip

Tongs, Tweezers, and Sorting Activities

Students use tongs and tweezers in classroom work, transferring tiny beads from the table to a soap dish with tweezers or moving objects from one bowl to another with tongs. Different muscles defining the pincer grasp are strengthened by manipulating tiny tweezers and small tongs. Beyond just the physical, these activities also help students grow in focus, patience, perseverance, depth perception, figure-ground control, and are also handy skills for learning to write.

Children don’t need these grasping utensils to accomplish the same goal. For example, you can fill a bowl with dried beans, macaroni, and beads and instruct the child to sort each into separate bowls. They get the same results by using their thumb and forefinger to pinch each item out of the bowl. However, a key difference is by offering varied ways of doing the same task, young minds remain stimulated, and the activity holds their attention. Variety also builds muscle memory so that over time the actions become automatic.

Knobbed Cylinders

The Knobbed Cylinders are a Montessori material found in Bridge Primary and Primary classrooms to teach children size and order. It is made of a block of wood with 10 different-sized holes and cylinders with knobs on top corresponding to each hole. Students are instructed to begin with the largest hole on the left side of the board and work to the smallest ending on the far right. This repetition of left to right reinforces the skills needed for reading, and the small knobs used to grab each cylinder strengthen the pincer grasp.

Scissors and Paintbrushes

Artistic expression is crucial in a Montessori classroom, and many skills refined in the creation process transfer to academics. Scissors are a perfect example. Most young children look forward to cutting with scissors, loving it so much they give themselves do-it-yourself haircuts, make slits in their clothes, or leave paper scraps everywhere. Montessori teachers offer guided activities for practicing scissor cutting, which trains the same pincer grip muscles they will later use in writing.

Similarly, giving a young artist a paintbrush and a vertical easel encourages the child to hold the paintbrush with a correct pincer grip, and naturally, they will draw their hand up and down the page to make their works of art. These activities strengthen pincer grip with seemingly no extra effort—and children love it.

The Montessori in a Minute Series

The Montessori In A Minute series regularly explores the unique benefits of Montessori philosophy, its fundamental materials, and areas of the classroom. For all parents at Hudson Montessori School (Jersey City, New Jersey), the school hosts several Parent Education Nights a year to learn about the Montessori method and how the students learn curriculum components using a Montessori framework.

Please contact us to learn more about Hudson Montessori School's interdisciplinary, theme-based learning approach to education, the Montessori philosophy and methodology, or how the school fosters the love of learning for children aged 2 to eighth grade.

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