Grasping Pencil Grasps
A functional pencil grasp allows one to move their fingers to promote more effective control of the pencil, avoid fatigue when completing writing or drawing tasks, and encourage neat and efficient work production. Like motor skills, pencil grasps develop in a sequenced format. First, the child will typically use a larger (gross) grasp. As they develop, their pencil grasp matures, using more efficient pencil skills. One skill is the child using a “helper hand”, their non-dominant hand, to stabilize the paper. Grasps can be identified according to the number of fingers that are holding the pencil, as well as the position of the thumb on the pencil.
Pencil Grasp Stages of Development
- Palmar Supinate Grasp
- This grasp is also known as the “whole hand” or “power” grasp pattern
- Holding the pencil with their fist
- Enables larger movements but is not very controlled
- Typically seen between 12 months to 1.5 years old
- Digital Pronate Grasp
- Typically seen between 2-3 years
- Child will turn their palm around so their fingers are facing the ceiling
- Quadruped Grasp
- Recognized as the four finger grasp
- The thumb, index, middle, and ring finger are all on the pencil and resting on the pinkie finger.
- Develops between 3.5- 4 years
- Static Tripod Grasp
- Develops between 3.5-4 years
- Includes use of the thumb, pointer finger, and rests the pencil on the last joint of the middle finger.
- Ring and pinkie fingers are tucked towards the palm of the hand.
- Dynamic Tripod Grasp
- Developed between 4-6/7 years
- Thumb and pointer finger hold the pencil on the middle finger.
- This grasp can take up to 14 years to develop
- Considered the most functional and effective pencil grasp
Less Functional or Immature Grasps
When a child faces fine motor difficulties, they may often search different ways to hold their pencil. These grasps are not considered functional due to not allowing for optimal finger movement and control of the pencil.
- Five Finger Grasp
- Use of all five fingers along the shaft of the pencil and controls the pencil with the pinkie finger
- It is possible for the child to hook their index finger around the top of the pencil
- Typically, children with low tone and hypermobility will use this type of grasp
- Thumb Wrap
- The child may start with a tripod, but their thumb quickly alternates to wrapping around the pencils and fingers.
- When using this grasp, the child may mention pain in their hand when writing for long periods of time.
- Lateral Pencil Grasp
- With this grasp, the child may place the pencil along the side of the index finger, wrap their thumb around and control the movement by squeezing their hands.
Open Web Space and the Importance
- Open Web Space is considered the space between the thumb and the index finger. When the thumb is smushed between the pencil and the index finger, it is challenging to control the pencil