Parents often want to know at what age they should be encouraging their child to grasp the pencil correctly. While it is important to facilitate the development of a functional pencil grip, it is crucial to understand the normal development of a pencil grip to avoid forcing your child to use a grasp he or she may not be ready for.
Typically, the development of a pencil grip in young children follows this predictable course:
An efficient and functional pencil grip is one that allows the child to write neatly in a timely manner without fatiguing the hand muscles. Poor pencil grasps engage the incorrect hand muscles, leading the child to fatigue quickly and produce messy handwriting.
How Occupational Therapy Works on Pencil Grasp Development
Occupational therapists facilitate the development of a functional pencil grasp through the use of various therapeutic activities and exercises. Sometimes the use of an adapted grip is implemented to facilitate a functional tripod grasp. There are many grips to choose from so please consult with your child's occupational therapist on this matter.
Activities that facilitate the development of a tripod pencil grasp...
-Coloring with small or broken crayons is a great activity as it facilitates the use of the thumb, the index, and middle finger as there is limited space for the other fingers to come and join the party
-Coloring on a slanted surface - this promotes the wrist to extend backwards, which facilitates controlling the writing tool with the finger joints instead of using the entire hand
Manipulating Theraputty or Play-Doh is a good activity to strengthen those hand muscles needed for sustaining a pencil grip during writing activities. You can hide beads in Theraputty and have your child find them. Other ideas include:
-Attach clothespins to the brim of a cup
-Operate trigger spray bottles
Fine Motor Control and Finger Isolation
-Play Lite Bright
-Roll 1/4 inch balls of clay or theraputty between the tips of the thumb, index, and middle fingers
-Pick up small objects (pom poms, pegs, cheerios) with a tweezer or tong
As a child's postural control and shoulder strength improves, the child's ability to control the pencil with the fingers will begin to emerge.
If you have any specific questions, please feel free to contact your occupational therapist.
Written By: Nalleli Reyes, MS, OTR/L for Oceanside Therapy Group
Case-Smith, O (2010). Occupational therapy for children. Missouri: Mosby Elsevier.
Fleming-Castaldy, R. P. (2014). National occupational therapy certification exam: Review & study guide. Evanston, IL: TherapyEd.
Happy OT Month! April has been recognized as occupational therapy month since 1980. In addition to April being OT month, this year occupational therapy is celebrating its centennial, 100 years as a profession!!!
For occupational therapists the goal in therapy is to assist individuals in developing life skills and to participate in everyday activities. An individual’s “occupation” often depends on their stage in life: childhood, adulthood, and older adulthood. Occupational therapists also use a holistic approach to treat the “whole person”, and address the occupations of each individual in a unique way.
Children who are currently affected by developmental delays, or have a diagnosis which impacts their development often benefit from an occupational therapy evaluation (determining the child’s current level of performance), observation, treatment (intervention and strategies to address the child’s delays/areas of need), and consultation (working with the parent and/or family to carry over skills and strategies within the home environment).
Pediatric occupational therapists assist children in developing their “occupations”: playing, learning, socializing, and developing all of the skills needed to explore the world around them. At Oceanside Therapy Group, our occupational therapists assist their pediatric patients in developing grasping skills, fine motor skills, visual motor skills, sensory processing skills, and self-help skills (feeding, dressing, hygiene, toileting, etc). Each child is uniquely different, therefore treatment is individualized to help each child achieve their goals and be successful in everyday life skills.
Please join OTG in celebrating 100 years of occupational therapy this month! Feel free to ask our therapists how occupational therapy might help your child with their daily occupations to achieve their life skills.
Written by: Sarah Cortez, MOT, OTR/L for Oceanside Therapy Group
AOTA. "About Occupational Therapy" Aota.org. The American Occupational Therapy Association, 2002. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.
AOTA. "Child Development." Aota.org. The American Occupational Therapy Association, 2002. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.
OTG. "Pediatric Occupational Therapy." Oceanside Therapy Group. Oceanside Therapy Group, 2017. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.