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Pediatric Occupational Therapy in Sandy Springs, GA

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December 1, 2023

Expected Pencil Grasp By Age


Even in our digital age, knowing how to write is an essential life skill. So, when should your child be able to hold a pencil? As with most life skills, it takes time & practice. Here is the expected pencil grasp by age group –

pencil grasp by age 1

Palmer Grasp – Ages 1 to 1 ½ Years Old

Your child will hold crayons, markers, or brushes with their fist. Usually the wrist is slightly bent forward with the thumb tilted up. To color, paint, etc., your child’s arm will move as one, with the movement coming from the shoulder.

pencil grasp by age 3

Digital Pronate Grasp – Ages 2 to 3 Years Old

Your child typically holds their pencil with their fingers. Their wrist is straight with the thumb pointed down. Movement now will come from their elbow.

pencil grasp by age 3 1/2

Digital Grasp – Ages 3 ½ to 4 Years Old

Your child should hold their pencil with their thumb and three fingers with their wrist straight. Movement is no longer coming from their elbow, but now coming from their fingers.

pencil grasp by age 4 1/2

Dynamic Tripod Grasp – Age 4 ½

Your child should be able to hold their pencil with their thumb & two fingers, with their wrist slightly bent back. Movement continues to come from their fingers.

Developing these grasps can be challenging if your child hasn’t developed the correct muscles to grip the writing utensil correctly. When we work on handwriting skills, one area of focus is developing the hand & finger muscles through fine motor activities. We love working with play dough – squeezing, pulling, rolling, pinching – all of these movements help strengthen the hand muscles.

Are you worried about your child’s grasp development? We recommend reaching out to an occupational therapist to get their opinion. We also have ‘Play Dough Challenge Cards’ in our resource library to guide you through some exercises that will help your child build the finger and hand muscles they need for age appropriate grip development. The ‘Play Dough Challenge Cards’ can be helpful, but they do not replace working with a professional.

If you have any questions about finding an occupational therapist to help your child with their fine motor development, you can always reach out to us via our contact page. To download the ‘Play Dough Challenge Cards’ use this link, or visit our Resource Library. And lastly, be sure to check out our blog for all things sensory processing, self regulation, and all things occupational therapy!

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