Stages of Pencil Grasp Development
What is Pencil Grasp Development?
As your child grows, they will naturally hold their crayons and pencils in different ways. The way in which your child holds their crayon/pencil depends on how ‘ready’ their shoulder and arm muscles are. It is important for children to go through stages of pencil grasp
Most children will develop an efficient pencil grasp by using and mastering the following grasps:
Fisted Grasp: When your child initially picks up a crayon, he/she will most likely hold it in their closed fist. This is typically around 1-1½ years of age. Your child will use movement from their shoulder (whole-arm movements) to scribble and colour.
Palmer Grasp: As your child starts to develop more control over their shoulder and arm muscles, they will move on to hold a pencil with their fingers. With the Palmer grasp, the hand is facing downwards towards the paper, with the pencil lying across the palm of their hand. A child develops this grasp typically around 2 – 3 years old. The child will continue to use whole arm movements to scribble with this grasp.
Static Tripod or Quadrupod Grasp: From ages 3½ – 4 years old, your child may move on to hold the pencil with 3 fingers (tripod grasp with index, middle finger and thumb) or four fingers (quadruped grasp with ring finger added). Using the fourth finger can provide children with a little more support to hold the pencil. This is a static grasp, as the fingers do not yet move independently and movement is usually initiated from the wrist.
Dynamic Tripod grasp: Through ages 4 – 6, your child’s tripod grasp will mature to a dynamic grasp. The fingers now move independently and allow for more precise drawing and writing.
These 4 grasps are common in pencil grasp and fine motor development. Putting pencils into little hands before they are ready may lead to immature and inefficient pencil grasps. Instead, engage your child in age-appropriate activities to help develop the upper body, shoulder, arm and wrist muscles. Activities such as jumping, crawling, scribbling on vertical blackboards, shoveling sand with a spade, playing with play-dough and doing arts and crafts are all great motor activities to lay the foundations for a good pencil grasp.
Maeve completed her Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy in Trinity College Dublin in 2013 and has since been working with children with additional needs in both Ireland and Sri Lanka. She is also a member of the Assocation of Occupational Therapists of Ireland (AOTI) and the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT).