One thing that almost any parent of a preschooler will be aware of, is how they are gripping their pencil.
Now, let me start by saying that this is not something that develops overnight.
It takes time, a concentrated effort and multiple developmental skills lining up before our munchkins have the strength and skills to correctly grip their pencil.
And, if like mine, your child has a delay or difficulty with fine motor skills, than this might take a little longer than it does for others.
So, let’s take a quick look at the order in which our motor skills develop.
BIG BEFORE SMALL
In other words, we need to first develop the gross motor skills, before we can fine tune the control needed with our fine motor skills.
Given that, don’t just think about pencil grip as placing a writing implement in your child’s hand. Think of the underpinning skills that will be required for their future writing.
They will need to develop gross motor strength and control (arm, shoulder, core), and then move on to fine motor strength and control (wrist, fingers).
Think of these skills as the foundation of the motor control needed to successfully grasp/grip a pencil.
If they are lagging in any of these areas, then it would be worth creating opportunities for them to develop the muscles needed before putting too much emphasis on whether they have the correct grip.
Even if they have developed the appropriate motor skills, our kids don’t just wake up one day and have the ability to grasp a pencil with the correct grip. It develops over time, which is why it is so important to offer them opportunities for this skill set to unfold.
4 Stages & Ages of Developing Pencil Grip/Grasp
- Fisted Grasp (1-2 year old age appropriate)
- Palmar Grasp (2-3 year old age appropriate)
- Static Tripod or Quadrapod Grasp (3-4 year old age appropriate)
- Dynamic Tripod Grasp (4-6 year old age appropriate)
Additionally, it is very common for children that are still developing their pencil grasp to alternate back and forth between these grips.
So, to answer my original question of if you should be worried, I would say take a look at the ages that are general guidelines for the different grasps.
Then, consider if your child has the underpinning skills required (gross motor strength and control of the arm, shoulder and core, followed by the fine motor strength and control of the wrist and fingers).
Then, review if he/she has been given ample opportunities with different writing implements.
If any of these areas could be improved upon, start there.
Some great ways to do that include:
- Play-Doh or Theraputty
- Practising pincer grasp (picking up pom poms, coins, cheerio cereal or other small items)
- Using pegs to pick up items
- Manipulating puppets and finger puppets
- Drawing with other writing implements like chalk, thick or triangle crayons, large foam paintbrushes, sticks in the sand etc
- Using tongs to transfer items from one container to another
- Cutting with scissors
- Squeezing pipettes to draw up liquids
- Finger Trainer Occupational Therapy Toys
Another resource I love is Crayon Rocks. No matter which way you hold these, the hand will naturally be in a tripod grip.
If after considering all these things you are concerned about your child’s pencil grip, an Occupational Therapist is a great resource. Here are a couple of additional resources that you might also find helpful:
- Pencil Grip Info Sheet from Royal Children’s Hospital
- 5 Tips for Correcting Your Child’s Pencil Grasp from Growing Hands On Kids
- 6 Tips for Correcting Pencil Grip from Happy Brown House
And keep in mind that everyone develops along their own pathway. Your child might be steadily making progress, but not be there…YET.
Set up a strong foundation. Provide multiple opportunities. Encourage and praise them for the effort they are putting in to learning this complex skill.