Pencil Grasp Development: What to Expect

As a child grows and develops, how he or she holds a writing utensil also develops. Written output starts with scribbling and eventually becomes precise letters, numbers, and illustrations. Here is what you can expect to see as a child’s grasp evolves.

Fisted Grasp 1-1.5 years old

Fisted Grasp:

1 -1.5 years Old

When a child begins to hold a writing utensil to make scribbles this is the typical grasp pattern that is used. The utensil is held with a closed fist; movement originates in the arm and the whole hand moves the utensil.

Pencil Grasp Development
Digital Pronate Ages 2 - 3
Static Tripod Ages 3.5 - 4
Static Quadrupod Ages 3.5 - 4
Static Pencil Grasp Patterns

Digital pronate 

Ages 2-3

Fingers are pointed toward paper. 

Static tripod 

Ages 3.5-4

Fingers don’t move; the pencil is mostly controlled by arm movement. Three fingers are used to hold the writing tool. The pads of the thumb and index fingers pinch while the utensil rests on the side of the middle finger. 

Static quadrupod 

Ages 3.5-4

Fingers don’t move; the pencil is mostly controlled by arm movement. This grip differs from the static tripod in that four fingers are used to hold the writing tool. The pads of the thumb, index and middle fingers pinch while the utensil rests on the side of the ring finger. 

Pencil Grasp Development
Dynamic Tripod:  Ages 4.5 - 6
Dynamic Quadrupod Ages 4.5 - 6
Lateral Tripod Ages 4.5 -6
Lateral Quadrupod Ages 4.5 - 6
Dynamic Pencil Grasp Patterns

There are four grasp patterns that research has found to be mature and appropriate for functional writing. The difference between these grasps and the static grasps described above is that the fingers are moving and controlling the output of the writing tool.

Dynamic tripod 

Ages 4.5-6

The dynamic tripod is the most commonly recommended grasp for handwriting although the three others shown are also suitable. Three fingers are used to hold the writing tool. The pads of the thumb and index fingers pinch while the tool rests on the side of the middle finger. Movement is generated by the thumb, index, and middle fingers. 

Dynamic quadrupod 

Ages 4.5-6

Four fingers are used to hold the writing tool. The pads of the thumb, index and middle fingers pinch while the tool rests on the side of the ring finger. Movement is generated by the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers. 

Lateral tripod 

Ages 4.5-6

Three fingers are used to hold the writing tool. The thumb is held against the side of the index finger and crosses over the top of the writing utensil. Movement is generated by the index and middle fingers. There are four grasp patterns that research has found to be mature and appropriate for functional writing. The difference between these grasps and static grasps is that the fingers are moving and controlling the output of the writing tool. 

Disclaimer: 

The Fun Strokes blog is designed for educational and informational use only for teachers, therapists, and parents. It is not intended as medical advice or therapeutic treatment that would be provided in an individualized treatment plan. If you suspect a child has delays, please consult an occupational therapist.

Published by Linda Craig Dennis

Pediatric Occupational Therapist, Author and Creator of Fun Strokes Pre-writing Program

3 thoughts on “Pencil Grasp Development: What to Expect

  1. This site is beautiful and well thought out. There’s so much in it that I will have to go back to get points that I missed. Great ideas, easy to implement plans, and overall usefulness. I am really excited to share this site with my parents at Warwick Kids’ Academy

    Like

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