Hey Mommies! By the time your child goes to kindergarten, they should be using a correct pencil grasp. In some children, you will start to see a correct pencil grasp forming as early as age 2-3. In other children, it may start occurring around 4. You may also see girls using a correct grasp before boys. Girls have a tendency to develop speech and fine motor skills first. Whereas, boys have a tendency to develop gross motor first. Not always, but sometimes.
No matter where your child is with grasping skills, or if they are a boy or girl, here are 4 tips to help develop a functional, correct pencil grasp.
- Build hand strength: Good hand strength is the foundation for developing a correct pencil grasp. If your child has any weakness or low muscle tone in their hands, they will have a harder time with a proper pencil grasp. They will fatigue quicker and resort to using a grasp that requires less hand strength. Working with playdough is a great way to build hand strength. Here are 11 simple playdough activities.
- Show your child how to use a correct grasp: This may sound like a given, but many times, parents just do not show their kids how to correctly grasp a pencil. Showing your child how to hold a pencil and helping them position it in their hand will help them learn how to use a correct grasp. Spending time coloring and drawing with your child so they can see how you use and grasp your pencil will also help them learn how to use a correct grasp.
- Use short, stubby pencils, or broken pieces of crayons: Using a small writing utensil promotes a correct grasp. There is less for your child to hold on to so they have to use their fingertips. A smaller writing utensil is also easier to control with fingertips. Giving your child a big fat crayon or regular sized pencil may seem like a good idea, but it is often more awkward and harder for a child to control. This is when you may see your child use a fisted grasp (wrapping all fingers around the pencil and holding in a fist), or an awkward 4-5 finger grasp. Your child will use these incorrect grasping patterns because they are trying to stabilize and control the big writing utensil.
- Practice other fine motor activities: Stringing beads, stacking blocks, putting pennies in a piggy bank, using tongs, clipping clothespins, poking playdough with toothpicks and so on. Any and all fine motor activities will help build and strengthen your child’s fingers and hands which will help develop correct grasping patterns. Do a quick search on Pinterest for fine motor activities and you’ll have hundreds if not thousands of activities to choose from!
You can start these activities with your toddler to help promote and develop a correct pencil grasp, and you can continue to work on hand strength and fine motor with your school aged children even if they are using a correct grasp. This will help build their endurance for writing at school.
Let me know how these activities work out for you or if there are any other tips or tricks you’ve used with your kiddos to help them with their pencil grasp!
By: Emily Bettis, MOT/L
Emily Bettis, MOT/L is a pediatric occupational therapist and mother. She has been working with children birth-5 since 2008 and has been a mother since 2013. Emily is the founder and author HeyMommies.com