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Pencil Grip Development

Handwriting and a proper pencil grasp go hand in hand and can often be a lot more complex than what one would imagine.

Pencil grip development is a common concern for many parents, teachers and therapists as this can lead to difficulty with handwriting tasks in the future. There are several different reasons why a child holds their pencil the way they do. We want to be sure a child is progressing through the proper grasps in a typical pattern. If this does not occur, children may develop an immature grasp. One of the most common reasons for this is that they are participating in writing before their hands are developmentally ready for the task. It is very important to modify a child’s pencil grip as early as possible to avoid developing an inappropriate pencil grip leading to difficulty with handwriting.

Developing a pencil grip

Developing a pencil grip typically happens in a predictable pattern but may not always progress this way and that is okay! Typically, a child will develop a whole hand grasp known as a palmar supinate grasp around 1-1.5 years of age. By the age of 2-3 a child will develop a digital pronate grasp where the writing utensil is held in the hand with the tip of the crayon being help on the thumb side of the hand. This then transitions to a four-finger grasp between 3.5-4 years and a static tripod grasp between the ages of 3.5 and 4 years where the child holds the writing utensil with the thumb and index finger and rests the writing utensil on the middle finger. A dynamic tripod grasp typically develops between 4-7 years of age where the pencil movement will occur through manipulation of the fingers and hand.

Pencil grips & Occupational Therapy

If your child seems to have difficulty holding a pencil correctly, demonstrates messy handwriting, shows signs of fatigue with holding their pencil or has not yet achieved a dynamic tripod grasp, a pencil grip may be the solution! Adaptive pencil grips may be helpful in teaching students to modify their grasp and are used to facilitate an optimal pencil grasp. There are many pencil grips occupational therapists may recommend for your child depending on what aspect of the pencil grasp is difficult for your child. Here are some pencil grips for kids that can be easily purchased on Amazon:

  • Foam Grip (ridges or bumps on the gripper): provides a cushion for the joints and a target area for the child to grasp the pencil, this one is great for children who fatigue easily
  • Triangle Grip: 3-sided gripper that promotes the standard dynamic tripod pencil grasp, great for children who have an immature grasp pattern
  • CLAW (controlling letters of adolescent/adult writers): provides a cup for each of the three fingers to be placed into for a dynamic tripod grasp, great for children who have an immature grasp pattern
  • Grotto Grip: provides a guard for the fingers to promote a dynamic tripod grasp, helps promote a mature grasp pattern
  • EZ Grip: can help to hold the pencil with only pressure from one finger for those who do not hold their pencil tightly
  • Hollow Ventilation Gripper: relieves pressure on the fingers and promotes a dynamic tripod grasp. Can also help with arthritis and tremors.
  • The Crossover Grip: has wings in the middle of the grip to prevent the fingers from crossing over one another
  • The Pencil Grip: provides comfort and control for a child with a good dynamic tripod grasp

Pencil grip tips to improve pre-writing skills

While pencil grips are great for improving handwriting and grasp patterns, here are a few activities that can help develop pre-writing skills for children who are beginning to develop a pencil grasp.

  • Squeezing a squirt bottle
  • Playing with putty or play dough
  • Stringing beads
  • Popping bubbles
  • Wheelbarrow or animal walks
  • Using tongs/tweezers to pick up pom poms or other small objects
  • Placing coins in a piggy bank

McKenzee Muenchen, OTR/L

Resources:

Pencil Grasp Patterns – Improve Pre Writing Skills – OTPlan

Pencil Grasp Development – The OT Toolbox