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What is pencil grasp development?

As your child grows, the way in which they will hold their crayons or pencils will change. This change comes from an increased development of their shoulder and arm muscles which in turn increases their grasp development. You will typically see 4 different grasps that will mature with age. Here are the 4 different grasp patterns:

Fisted Grasp: This is the first grasp pattern typically seen around the ages of 1-1 ½ years old. Your child will most likely use their entire arm to form scribbles on paper.

Palmer Grasp: When your child’s shoulder and arm muscles start to develop, they will begin to hold their pencil with their fingers and not their entire fist. With this grasp, your child’s hand will face downwards towards the paper with the pencil across the palm of their hand. This grasp is typically seen around the ages of 2-3 years old.

Static Tripod or Quadruped Grasp: Around the ages of 3 ½- 4 years old, your child will move on to holding the pencil with only 3 fingers (tripod using the index finger, middle finger, and the thumb) or 4 fingers (quadruped by adding the ring finger). This grasp is called a static grasp because the fingers do not move independently, and movement usually comes from the wrist.

Dynamic Tripod Grasp: The final grasp in typically seen around 4-6 years old. This grasp will mature from being static to dynamic where all fingers can move independently and allow for precision while they are writing and drawing.

These 4 common grasps are intertwined with fine motor development. Putting pencils into your child’s hands before they are ready may cause immature and inefficient pencil grasps. Instead, let your child participate in age-appropriate activities to help increase the upper body, shoulder, arm, and wrist muscles. Activities could include jumping, crawling, scribbling on vertical services, shoveling sand with a toy shovel, playing with play-dough, or arts and crafts are all great motor activities to lay the foundations for a mature pencil grasp.

References: Stages of Pencil Grasp Development. (2015, July 23). Retrieved from

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