Types of Pencil Grasps

You pull out some crayons and paper to have some craft time with your 2-year-old. He’s super excited to let his creativity flow, but when he grabs a crayon, places it in the palm of his hand and wraps all of his fingers around it, you can’t help but want to correct how his grasp.

Before you jump on your instinct to fix the way he is holding his crayon, you should know that your toddler’s crayon grasp is right on track for his age!

Pencil grasp development is a vital part of a young child’s development. There are certain stages of this development, and each stage is directly related to a child’s fine motor development. As the muscles in his hands develop, he will move through the stages of pencil grasp, eventually holding his pencil, crayon, pen the correct way in order to begin to develop his handwriting skills.

There are four pencil grasp stages:

  1. Fisted Grasp. This is the first pencil grasp stage, and the type of grasp your toddler is making when he grabs a crayon and wraps his entire hand around it. In the fisted grasp, the muscles from the shoulder are being used to get the crayon to move across the paper the muscles in the hand aren’t yet strong enough to move it.
  2. Palmar Grasp. In this grasp, the pencil sits across the palm and the elbow is held out to the side. The hand muscles are stronger, but not quite strong enough to move the pencil.
  3. Five Finger Grasp. In this grasp, a child holds his pencil in the correct way, but uses five fingers instead of three to move it. Fine motor skills are well on their way to becoming strong enough to move the pencil, but they aren’t strong enough to move the pencil with just three fingers.
  4. Tripod Pencil Grasp. Eventually, the hand will become strong enough to shift from using five fingers to three to guide the pencil. This is final stage of pencil grasping, and it typically develops by the age of 5 or 6.

If you are concerned about your child’s pencil grasp development, a pediatric occupational therapist can provide assistance and help improve your child’s pencil grasping skills.

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