Pencil Grasp Development By: Natalie McHale, A.S., COTA
As our kiddos grow and develop their gross and fine motor skills, one thing to look at is pencil grasp development. As mentioned before, our bodies develop big to small or proximal to distal, and that also applies the same for grasp development. Maturing our grasp patterns depend on stability and strength in our large muscles which help encourage and develop precision and control in our small muscles that is needed for picking up and stabilizing objects.
When discussing the progression of grasp development the first stage or grasp pattern a child might demonstrate is called the palmar supinate or whole hand grasp. This grasp pattern is encouraged in our toddlers while learning to scribble on paper. Once more control is gained, our kiddos begin to demonstrate a digital pronated grasp or also known as palmar grasp where the index finger and thumb point down, the pencil is held in the middle of the hand and the elbow slightly sticks out. Usually around the age of 3-4, the grasp pattern begins to mature, noticing more movement in the wrist for control to form pre-writing shapes, tracing and coloring. Lastly, the tripod grasp which includes the thumb, index and middle fingers with the pencil laying in the web space (between thumb and index finger). This grasp promotes more finger mobility allowing for more skilled movement patterns one uses for handwriting, precision coloring and motor control.
Activities that promote a tripod grasp can be developed through play activities and don’t always have to involve the use of a pencil. Here are a few ideas that can be done at home: