Pencil Grip Stages: What to Expect & How to Help Your Kids

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Pencil grip is an important part of developing the ability to write successfully. Here are the stages of pencil grip development and how you can help kids at each stage.

Why is Pencil Grip Important?

Pencil grip is important because it helps kids to have the proper amount of control over the pencil. A good pencil grip will help your child to eventually write more neatly, efficiently, and with less fatigue.

pencil grip stages - child holding a crayon  and blank paper

It’s important to remember that developing a grip is a process that should not be rushed. Many kids need to build their fine motor skills and hand strength before they are ready to tackle using a crayon or pencil. Also, each child will develop at their own pace, so it’s important to be patient and provide plenty of opportunities for practice.

What are the Stages of Pencil Grip Development?

There are many types of pencil grasps that kids use, and they go by a variety of names. Generally, kids will move through these developmental grasp stages, but you will also find that some kids (like me) might develop their own unique grip. Here are some of the most common grips that kids use as they develop a mature pencil grasp.

Fisted Grip or Palmar Supinate Grasp

This is the most basic grip and is often seen in very young children. By the way, supinate means that the palm is facing up or forwards. The child wraps their whole fist around the pencil and grasps it tightly. Kids use their whole arm to move a crayon or pencil with this grasp. Kids often prefer to work on a vertical surface when using this grasp.

child grasping a crayon with a Fisted Grip or Palmar Supinate Grasp

Palmer or digital-pronate grasp

In this stage, holds the pencil in their palm but starts to use their thumb and all their fingers as well. Pronate means that the palm is facing down or backward. Again, the whole arm moves when using this grasp, so a vertical surface is preferred.

child drawing with a Palmer or digital-pronate grasp

Static Three-Fingered or Static Four-Fingered Grasp

Many preschoolers will use the three or four-fingered grasp. Kids hold the pencil or crayon with the pads of their fingers. This is called static because the individual fingers do not move in this grasp. Kids use their wrist and forearm to move their writing instrument.

child holding a colored pencil with a Static Three-Fingered or Static Four-Fingered Grasp

Dynamic Tripod or Quadruple Grip

As their grip matures, kids will start using a dynamic grasp. This means that they can move a pencil or crayon with their fingers with minimal wrist movement and their arm resting on the table. In this stage, the pencil is held with the tips of the fingers between the thumb and first two fingers, and the pencil rests on the middle finger.

child's hand holding a pencil with a ynamic Tripod or Quadruple Grip

When Should a Child Have a Correct Grasp?

Many kids will develop and use a dynamic pencil grasp by the time they reach first grade. However, if you are concerned about your child’s pencil grip, or if they are having difficulty with writing tasks such as coloring within the lines, you may want to consult an occupational therapist or other educational professional.

What Tools Should I Use to Encourage Proper Grasp?

There is no need to use pencil grips at an early age but here are some tools that may help your child as they develop their pencil grasp.

  • Broken Crayons
  • Pebble Crayons
  • Small Pieces of Chalk
  • Golf Pencils

So I LOVE a fresh new box of crayons. Can you smell them right now as you read this? Why in the world would I want to BREAK them into small pieces?

child holding a broken crayon to draw

Many occupational therapist recommend short writing instruments. When crayons, pencils, chalk, etc. are short, this encourages kids to use three fingers.

child holding a small piece of chalk to draw

Here are some suggested products from Amazon. These links are affiliate links. That means when you purchase through my link, Amazon will pay me a commission for it. This doesn’t cost you anything additional.

Activities to Build Strength for Pencil Grasp Development

Building hand and finger strength is an important stepping stone to holding a pencil. Here are some fun ways that you can help your kids build strength in their little fingers.

Playdough: Playing with playdough is a great way to build hand and finger strength. Invite your kids to mix, knead, and squish the dough. You can also hide small objects in the playdough for them to find.

Clothespins: Clothespins are great for building finger and hand strength. Encourage your child to clip the clothespins onto a piece of paper or fabric. You can also challenge them to move the clothespins from one bowl to another using only their fingers. Use count and clip cards for a math and fine motor activity. You can also use clothespins to make your own paintbrushes.

Bead Activities: There are lots of craft activities that you can do with beads. You lace beads to make beaded necklaces, or beaded snowflakes. Placing beads on an images is also a fun fine motor activity.

Spray bottles: Let your child help with watering plants, watering flowers, or washing pumpkins. You can also paint with spray bottles.

Squirt guns: I don’t love using guns wtih kids, but you can find some animal squirt guns to use for some amazing squirt gun process art projects.

Tweezers and tongs: You can easily find fun fine motor tools in your kitchen drawer or at the dollar store. Tweezers and tongs are great for developing the muscles in the fingers. Encourage your child to use tweezers to pick up small objects or tongs to transfer objects from one container to another.

Eyedroppers: eyedroppers are a great way to build hand and finger muscles. Let your child use an eyedropper to transfer water from one container to another. Mixing colors makes this an extra fun activity. You can also use eyedroppers for fun fine motor painting activities.

Building with blocks: Building towers with blocks or other items is a great way to develop hand and finger muscles.

Painting: It’s easy to combine a finger strengthening activity with an art activity. Painting is a great way to build hand and finger muscles. Encourage your child to use different painting techniques such as eye dropper painting, dot marker painting, squeeze bottle painting and more. You can also experiment with DIY paintbrushes.

Tearing Paper: Tearing paper is a great way to build hand strength. Encourage your child to tear strips of paper or whole sheets into smaller pieces. They can then use it to make torn paper art.

Pop bubble wrap : Encourage your child to pop the bubbles with their fingers. Not only is this a motivating and satisfying activity, but it also builds finger strength.

Hole Punch Activities: Kids love doing hole punch activities. I don’t know why it’s so exciting to punch holes in paper….but it is.

Finally, remember to be patient as your child develops their pencil grip. Each child is unique and will develop at their own pace. Provide plenty of opportunities to build finger strength and to practice.

Fine Motor Activities from The Store

Are you looking for printable fine motor activities for your kids? Check out the following items from the store.

Paper tearing fine motor activity printable pages
fine motor hole punch activities
pre-writing activities and mazes for preschoolers
count and clip cards for fine motor and math activities
playdough mats and number cards for kids
alphabet and beginning sound clip cards
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