Between speech, language, and gross motor development, many children can fall behind with fine motor skills.
One area of fine motor skills some children struggle with is the pencil grasp.
A pencil grasp develops overtime and helps a child learn proper handwriting skills with pen, pencil, crayons, and markers.
With this particular grasp writing skills are compromised.
If a child shows an inability to hold a writing utensil correctly, he or she could develop a negative attitude toward learning.
Thankfully, there are easy and fun ways to help your child improve pencil grasp!
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The Development of Pencil Grasp
Typically, children begin to develop a pencil grasp around 18 months of age.
But the pencil grip you’re seeing at 18 months is strikingly different than the typical pencil grasp.
At 18 months a child is lying the groundwork for his/her fine motor skills by using the palmer grasp- a grip involving the entire hand wrapped around a pencil.
Next, in the pencil grasp development comes the “hand on top” grip seen in children between the ages of two and three years old.
This particular grasp involves the fingers gripping the pencil, but the wrist is turned and the hand is on top of the pencil.
This pencil grip does allow for some handwriting and coloring back and forth movements.
A static tripod grasp development is seen in children between the ages of three and four and involves the three-finger hold of the index, thumb, and middle finger to hold the pencil.
While this grip is rigid it does allow a child to begin tracing letters and drawing simple pictures.
The dynamic tripod grasp is the holy grail of pencil holding and it typically develops around five years of age.
This allows for smooth and fluent handwriting by using the thumb, index, and middle fingers for gripping the pencil, while the ring and little finger curl into the palm.
As a mama to a four-year-old with autism, improving fine motor skills, particularly a pencil grasp is of great importance right now.
My four-year-old is stuck in the “hand on top” pencil grip when he should be using a static tripod grasp.
Although he is receiving occupational therapy once a week to tackle improve this fine motor skills, I’ve increased the number of opportunities for him to learn and practice the pencil grasp.
For him now, it’s a matter of maintaining his patience while he lets me help him with the skill.
Since my son is behind developmentally, I’ve found the “hand-over-hand” method works great for helping him understand the pencil grasp for many of the following activities.
While some of these activities he immediately will use the pencil grip, other activities he will still use the “hand on top.”
But the key to improving a child’s pencil grasp is lots of practice through fun and simple activities!
Related Articles: At-Home Montessori Toys To Aid Development
Activities and Toys To Improve Pencil Grasp
Yes, wind-up toys still exist! They were first created in 1880 in Europe and made their way to the United States by 1900.
These toys were first made of tin, but are now made of plastic. However, the iconic wind-up mechanism to make the toys move still exists.
The wind-up “key” has to be turned with the index finger and thumb. Therefore, helping your child use the fine motor skills involved with a pencil grip.
My son just received a set for Christmas! While he still has not got the hang of things yet, I am helping him thread beads by using the hand-over-hand method to assist.
Threading beads make your child use the tripod pencil grasp to guide the string through the bead holes.
Lacing thread through cards or panels with fun shapes is another activity similar to threading beads.
But your child has less of an opportunity to misplace the beads and they are not considered a choking hazard for smaller children.
You can purchase sets of lacing cards through Amazon or you can make your own. Don’t be intimidated, it’s fairly easy.
To make a DIY lacing card you need the following items:
-Foam craft sheets
-Handheld hole punch
- Start by drawing a simple shape of something (a duck, circle, triangle, tree, and more) on to one side of a foam sheet. If you’re not comfortable free drawing an outline design but print off simple designs from free coloring pages off Google.
- Take a hand-held hole punch and punch holes spaced evenly around the edge of the design.
- Then thread the shoelace through the holes to ‘trace’ the design.
Remember Lite Brite from your childhood?! I have fond memories of this activity.
While it’s great for fueling your child’s imagination for creating designs, but it’s also an activity to help your child develop a pencil grasp.
To grasp each of the tiny lights, the thumb, index, and middle finger need to come together to pick it up and place it into the lighted pegboard.
This action is repeated over and over.
Picking small items up with tweezers can help master a pencil grasp for your child.
I’ve found the best way to include tweezers to is create a hands-on sensory bin with pom poms or small beads that can be picked up well.
But please be advised if you are using small beads in a sensory bin, they are a choking hazard!
Clothespins are also another option if you don’t want to use tweezers.
Just use pom poms or have your child pick up play scarves, or wash clothes.
What child doesn’t love stickers!
To peel a sticker a child needs to use the thumb and index finger.
Have your child practice peeling and placing stickers on paper.
Pencil grips are for any school-aged child who is already using a pencil regularly and is still needing extra help with the pencil grasp.
Pencil Grip Tongs
Pencil Grip Tongs are like tweezers but have three prongs instead of two. This will help your child strengthen his or her fine motor movement and strengthen muscles in the hand.
These are amazing for including in your sensory bin collection!
Toypix Color Sorting Bird House
Toypix Color Sorting Bird House is an all-in-one Montessori activity toy.
The goal is to place small wooden birds inside a carved out hole or ‘birdhouse’ with a pair of plastic tweezers.
WiggleWorms! Fine Motor Activity Set
WiggleWorms! is a fine motor activity game that involves using three-prong tweezers to pick up colorful worms out of the ground.
While there are a lot of pieces to this activity, it is well worth it for helping your child with his or her pencil grasp.
Steggy The Fine Motor Dino
Steggy The Fine Motor Dino is perfect for helping the early development of the pencil grasp for children as young as 2 years old.
All your child needs to do is pinch the “scales” and place them on the dinosaur’s back.
Avalanche Fruit Stand
Avalanche Fruit Stand helps develop the pincer grip to help strengthen the hand for a tripod pencil grasp.
Simple spin the color fruit wheel to pick a fruit.
Then, your child uses tweezers to place a small piece of plastic fruit to stack them in a fruit tray.
Spinning tops force a child to use the three main fingers for a pencil grasp and twist to make the top spin. That’s it!
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One of the most important fine motor skills a child learns in life is the pencil grasp.
Without it, your child cannot write.
Sometimes (like with my own son) it’s a pattern of developmental delay in which a child needs help.
Oftentimes, a child does need help through activities and toys to strengthen the muscles in the hands and develop a strong pencil grasp.
So don’t worry if your child is a bit behind like mine.
There plenty of pencil grasp activities you can start today to help your child with this fundamental skill!
Toys for Pencil Grasp and Writing – MOSAIC Gift Guide Part II •Mosaic Rehabilitation (mosaicrehabmt.com)