Tips and Tricks about grasping and pencil grip.

Ever looked at your child holding his/her pencil in a different/”funny” way and asked yourself?

  • Is it normal?
  • Is it age appropriate?
  • Should I jump in and correct it?

This article sets out to explore the development of grasping according to age, what are some of the factors influencing grasping and the pencil grip and what can be done to improve/correct a child’s pencil grip.

Grasping starts to develop when babies begin holding things in their hands, and it progresses from a palmar grasp (holding a cube with whole hand) to a pincer grasp (being able to pick up all specks of dirt from the floor …. :).

grasp development - HOLDING THE PENCIL - WHEN AND HOW?

From a handwriting perspective, there are four distinctive grasps that mark the development of the pencil grip (as per photo below).  All children are developing at their own pace so this timeline is a guide only.


Now that we know stages of development of a child’s pencil grip, some of us might wonder what happens when a child has difficulty acquiring this milestone.  One of the major factors that contribute to mastering this skill relates to the strength of the muscles in the hand and fingers.  If there is weakness in this area you are likely to notice the child tires easily, shakes his/her hand repeatedly during writing, does not apply enough pressure on the paper to make a mark, or holds the pencil differently to compensate.

writing 110764 1280 - HOLDING THE PENCIL - WHEN AND HOW?

What can we do to strengthen those muscles?

The good news … its quite easy, ….. Play!

Activities could include:

Play-doh, ripping paper (making collages), feeding pipe cleaners through a plastic sieve, working with little pegs (this could also be used for matching colors and shapes), working with different strengths of putty (try hiding beads or small toys in the putty and get the child to find them), stress balls (different textures and strengths), etc.

Another useful activity is to have a “finger gym” session before starting to draw, color or practice handwriting (eg. place both hands on the table, palms down, and start taping each finger individually, start from one hand and finish with the other, than tap all the fingers (start slow like a “little mouse” and then see how fast can  “the horse” gallop ….)

By the time children are ready to start school, if they hold their pencil in that “funny way” that makes you wonder “what is going on?” it might be beneficial to consider introducing a pencil grip to assist with forming a correct pencil grasp.  There is quite a variety of pencil grips out there and each one of them has been created to address/correct a specific grip.

Another factor to consider is the type of pencil your child is using.  I know we all like nice, long and shiny pencils/crayons but this might not be the best writing tool for your child, especially when they are just starting to handwrite.  Shorter pencils give better stability and some children are able to correct their grip when introduced to a short crayon or pencil.  (PS. kids always get a kick out of breaking crayons in little pieces and this activity as such works on their finger strength).

In the mean time, if you would like more information about handwriting, occupational therapy, or would like to enquire about our services, please contact us at EquipKids..  We would love to hear from you and are always happy to have a chat.

Next article will focus on letter formation, so stay tuned.


Amundson, S. (2005). Prewriting and handwriting skills. In J. Case-Smith (Ed.), Occupational therapy for children (5th ed.). St Louis: Elsevier, Inc.

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