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Pencil Grasp

Wondering if your child is holding their pencil correctly or if you should correct their grasp?

Here’s a quick guide of the appropriate development of pencil grasp and a fun resource with

activities to improve your child’s grasp.

The typical pattern of grasp development is shown in the image below. The first image displays the “fisted grasp” pattern, which is typical for children under the age of 2, as toddlers use their whole arm to move the utensil to scribble. At around age 2-3, children should transition to a “palmar grasp”, shown in the second picture, as their shoulder muscles strengthen and improve the control of the utensil. The next phase of pencil grasp generally occurs around age 3.5-4 and is called the “five-finger grasp,” seen in the third picture. At this stage, the fingers are holding the utensil closer to the tip and the movement for writing is mainly seen at the wrist. A mature pencil grasp, “tripod grasp,” shown in the last image develops around age 5-6 where the thumb and index finger pinch the pencil while it is supported on the side of the middle finger.

These stages of grasp development are normal and appropriate for your child to progress

through based on how their muscles develop. In order to have the fine motor skills required for the mature pencil grasp, children have to develop the shoulder and arm strength to support the smaller refined movements required for handwriting. Talk to your occupational therapist about your concerns and questions related to your child’s grasp and how to encourage the appropriate grasp at home. The first link below discusses pencil grasp development in further detail and the second link provides excellent ideas to help improve pencil grasp development at home.


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