Let’s Talk Pencil Grip; What is it and Why is it Important?
Why is pencil grip important?
Developing a functional pencil grip is important for children to engage happily and comfortably in written tasks. Holding a pencil comfortably will significantly impact a child’s willingness to engage in written tasks.
What are the stages of pencil grip development?
This grasp develops as a child improves their ability to grasp and release objects. Movement is derived from the shoulder and the forearm, hand and fingers move as a unit. A child will typically scribble at this stage or try to imitate strokes.
Writing tool is held between all fingers. Movement is derived mainly from the elbow and the forearm, hand and fingers move as a unit. A child’s ability to imitate shapes also becomes more refined; including horizontal and vertical lines and circles.
Fingers (typically all 4) sit on the pencil shaft opposite the thumb. Movement is typically derived from the wrist and there is little movement in the fingers.
This grasp develops as a child is more proficient at manipulating objects between the fingers and palm and able to rotate objets within the fingers. In a tripod grasp, the thumb, index and middle fingers work in unison to provide control. The ring finger and little finger sit beneath the middle finger to offer additional support. A child will have developed adequate pencil control when adopting this pencil grip.
Before encouraging children to progress through the typical stages of pencil grip development, it is important to consider;
- Is the pencil grip dysfunction? and
- Does the child have foundation skills to progress in their pencil grip development?
What is a dysfunctional pencil grip?
There are many different pencil grips that a child may adopt. A dysfunctional grip is adopted to compensate for delays in foundation skills.
A pencil grip may be determined dysfunction if;
- It causes discomfort or pain in the forearm or fingers. This may be observed by frequently shaking the arm/fingers, or verbal reporting pain.
- A child easily fatigues and is unable to complete written tasks
- Movement is restricted due to the way the pencil is held
- Handwriting product is illegible
How pencil grip be improved?
Children have difficulties with pencil grip for a number of reasons including;
- Delays in fine motor skills including fine motor strength, dexterity and pincer isolation.
- Delays in gross motor skills including core stability and coordination
- Delays in praxis (* Praxis is a complex neurological process that involves generating an idea of what you want to do (ideation), figuring out how you are going to do it (motor planning) and then ‘doing’ (execution).
- Delays in midline crossing
- Underdevelopment in the tactile and proprioceptive sensory systems
Improvements in each of the above relevant areas will support pencil grip.
Can Pencil grasp be improved by using a pencil grip on a pencil?
Pencil grips are helpful in assisting correct finger placement on a writing tool. As mentioned above, it is recommended that children develop foundation skills such as fine motor strength and coordination, which may be the cause a dysfunction or delayed grasp. It is recommended that foundation skills be supported, with pencil grip use as a supplement.
Resources available at the OT Store to improve pencil grasp include;
- Squeeze and snap fidget
- Twist and write pencils
- Hey clay
- Wikki stix
- Fine motor pack
- Handwriting pack
- Pencil grips; to trial out which one might suit your little ones fingers, we recommend the pencil grip sample pack
* If you have any concerns about your child’s pencil grip, it is recommended they participate in an Occupational Therapy assessment *