What is the Proper Pencil Grip Development for Children?

Why is My Child Holding the Pencil This Way?

The proper way to hold a pencil is developed over time. When a child first begins to grasp objects, you will see a fisted grab. Young children first develop gross motor skills, using the larger muscles of the hand to grab a pencil in their fist. The drawing action comes all the way from the shoulder, and the control your child has over what is produced on paper is limited.

Pencil Grip Development Over Time

Pencil grip development then moves on to a palmar grasp. Many toddlers use this position to hold a pencil, engaging both the shoulder and arm muscles to write on paper. The pencil goes across the palm, and the entire hand is closed around the pencil. In the beginning, this can be the correct pencil grip for preschoolers and is often seen in children 2-3 years old.

As children develop better control over their hand muscles, the correct handwriting hand position begins to emerge. Children who are around four years old use a five finger pencil grip when trying to color or write. While this pencil grip would look odd with an adult, this is the correct pencil grip for preschoolers as they are developing better control of fine motor skills and learning how to hold a pencil correctly.

In the beginning of the use of this type of grip, a child will hold onto the writing utensil tightly and might not pick the wrist off the table while writing. All five fingers are engaged in holding the pencil with the five finger pencil grip. As the pencil grip development progresses, the child will begin writing with finger movements and less movement from the shoulder, arm and wrist.

The Tripod Pencil Grip

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One proper way to hold a pencil is with the tripod pencil grip. This is the most common pencil grip, as it allows for more movement of the fingers and better control overall. When considering pencil grip development, functional pencil grips are more important than following one specific grip form. A functional pencil grip needs to include:

  • Good movement of the fingers without having to use arm, wrist or entire hand to move the pencil. Finger movement control allows for more efficient writing and drawing.
  • The ability to write without getting tired or sore.
  • The ability to produce neat work while using the functional pencil grip.

The tripod pencil grip is common, but this does not mean it is the only functional pencil grip that can be used. There are a number of factors that can cause your child to have poor pencil grip development, and it’s important to consider any hurdles they may have. Children who are left handed may struggle with writing or pencil grip because they have been encouraged to use their right hand instead. Painful joints or poor muscle tone in the hands can make writing difficult, and your child may be using coping strategies in order to write correctly.

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Signs that it is time for occupational therapy to assess your child’s pencil grip development include:

  • Your child is not progressing with the correct pencil grip for preschoolers and tires easily.
  • Your child continues to grasp the pencil tightly with a fist and has poor muscle control.
  • Your child refuses to color, draw or write because they say it is too hard.
  • Your child continually changes hands while writing and is not learning the proper way to hold a pencil.

Having your child assessed by an occupational therapist from Infinite Therapy Solutions can make all the difference in your child’s success. Call us today at 201-455-3144 to learn more about services we can offer to help your child succeed with pencil grip development.