The grasping reflex is an instinctive response a newborn baby will give during the first eight weeks of life.
Although a newborn's hands will be clenched for the majority of these weeks, the baby will instinctively grasp anything that touches the palm – for example, a parent's finger or a small toy. While it seems basic, the grasping reflex is important as it is one of the very first steps towards mastering hand to eye coordination.
By around three months of age, the baby will lose the initial grasp reflex and begin to voluntarily grab at anything of interest, usually colourful toys or objects that make an interesting noise. They baby will also start to examine their hands, and will spend time opening and closing their fingers, and turning the hand.
By around eight months, the baby will have mastered picking up large objects such as building blocks or a cuddly toy. By 12 months, the baby will be able to pick up much smaller objects, such as buttons. The child will also be working on perfecting the pincer grip, which involves using the thumb and forefinger to pick up small objects with precision.
If a newborn does not display a grasping reflex, or the desire to grab and hold as the child gets older, this should be reported to a doctor or health visitor. In rare circumstances, there may be an underlying medical issue that is preventing the child practising hand to eye coordination.