The five pencil grip developmental stages
Stage 1 - Palmer-supinate grasp
Holds the crayon/pencil in fist (whole hand) like a dagger. They use whole arm movements from the shoulder to mark-make. Due to this whole arm movement they prefer to work on a vertical surface.
Stage 2 - Palmer or digital-pronate grasp
Holds a crayon/pencil with the palm of the hand facing down towards the paper. The crayon/pencil is held by all the fingers and the thumb. The movement comes from the shoulder and elbow. Again due to the way the arm moves a vertical surface is preferred.
Stage 3 - Four finger and thumb grip
Holding the crayon/pencil between the thumb and four fingers with the crayon/pencil in a nearly vertical, upright position. Movement comes from the elbow and wrist.
Stage 4 - Static quadruped or tripod grip
Holding the pencil in very nearly in the correct position however the web space is narrower than it would be if held in a mature tripod grip. This means that the movement is coming from the wrist and large finger movements.
Stage 5 - Mature / Dynamic tripod grip
This is traditionally considered the most appropriate handwriting pencil grip for both left and right-handed writers. Holding the pencil between the thumb and index finger with pencil supported on the middle finger. The ring and little fingers are gently curled inwards. This gives an open wide web space which means the movement comes from the fingers.
Every child is different, developing the skills needed to hold a pencil at a different time to their peers.
There are 5 developmental stages, that your child needs to go through, before they can successfully use a mature tripod grip. They need to work through each stage and as their hand, shoulder and arm strength and mobility increases so does the ability to move to the next developmental stage of the grip.
|2 to 4 1⁄2 years
|Stage 1 to 3
|3 1⁄2 to 5 years
|Stage 3 to 4
|4 to 6 years
|Stage 4 to 5
Your child may not develop a three finger tripod pencil grip until they are 5 - 6 years old. This is considered the most appropriate pencil grip, for right and left-handed writers, as it allows the fingers and wrist to work together to provide a more free flowing movement.
If your child is age 6+ years old and is using a stage 1 to 4 grip then work through the stages one at a time to stage 5. Allow your child to spend at least 3 or 4 weeks at one stage before moving to the next.
If a toddler is taught how to hold a pencil using the tripod grip before they are physically ready, they are inclined to develop a poor pencil grip which is difficult to change once they are older. These grips can make handwriting difficult and less fluid as well as making writing a very tiring task. It can also turn some children off colouring, drawing and handwriting as they are not pleasurable experiences.
Young children need thicker drawing tools, as they can grip them more easily. If the pencil is too thin, they find it difficult to grasp and control, making the drawing experience unsuccessful, which can lead to frustration and discourage them from trying again.