How To: Encourage Pencil Grasp
Did you know?
When learning how to hold pens and pencils, children develop control over the larger muscles in their arms, closer to their body’s centre (proximal muscles), before the smaller muscles in their hands (distal muscles). Therefore, taking part in fun gross motor activities such as climbing and crawling will strengthen the proximal muscles and provide a strong foundation for learning how to use a pencil later on.
There are usually four stages to learning pencil grasp:
- Fisted Grasp – When toddlers first hold crayons and put them to paper, using the whole fist to grip with their thumb pointing upwards and the crayon pointing down and moving from the shoulder.
- Palmar Grasp – The crayon is pointing in the same direction of the child’s thumb and lying across their palm, still in a fist, with their elbow sticking to the side as they move it.
- Five Finger Pencil Grasp – Closer to an adult’s grip, with five fingers holding the crayon and using more wrist movements to move it.
- Tripod Pencil Grasp – Using just the thumb, middle and index fingers to grip the crayon or pencil, maybe still using wrist movements but, as the muscles develop, using more finger movements to draw and colour.
There are many ways to encourage children to develop the muscles for eventually grasping a pencil. As mentioned before, lots of gross motor skills tasks such as physical games that use the arms will strengthen the base muscles, providing a strong foundation for fine motor control.
Using short, stubby crayons when colouring naturally encourages a tripod grasp, and sorting or food tasks that involve tweezers are a fun way to help children learn the correct hand placement. Everyday activities such as painting, using glue sticks and colouring are all useful in helping develop pencil grasp. Try to make sure there are a variety of widths of paintbrushes or crayons available, as small hands work best with chunkier tools.
It’s important to remember not to force children to hold their crayons or pencils a certain way. Their muscles are developing and they need to find the way on their own, but providing these activities and knowing the process will help your little ones naturally develop their pencil grasp.
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