Different Stages of Writing Utensil Grasp Development

Moving through the different stages of pencil grasp development is an important part of early childhood development that CST Academy acknowledges. As your child grows, they will naturally hold their crayons and pencils in different ways. Each stage of holding a writing utensil is dependent on how developed the shoulder and arm muscles are. There are principles of development called “big to small” and “proximal to distal.” Most children will develop an efficient writing utensil grasp by using and mastering the following grasps:

1. Fisted Grasp: Around Ages 1- 1.5 Years Old

In the beginning stages, it is typical for young children to hold their writing tool with the entire hand, making a fist. Since muscle strength is in the early phase, a child will utilize their full arm to accomplish the task. At this age, children usually start scribbling and making dots.

2. Palmar Grasp: Around Ages 2- 3 Years Old

For palmar grasp, all fingers are around the writing tool, with the wrist turned so the palm of the hand is facing down picking up the object. Children begin to stabilize their shoulders and movement comes mostly from the elbow. At this age, children should start being able to copy a horizontal, vertical, and circular line.

3. Static Tripod Grasp: Around Ages 3.5- 4 Years Old

At this age, children will switch to a static tripod grasp. There still may be some whole arm movement at times, with the wrists being still and not gracefully moving, or static. This grasp utilizes 4 fingers where the thumb, index, and middle finger work together on the pencil and rest on the 4th finger. At this age, children typically should be able to copy a diagonal line, square, diagonal cross, circle, and triangle.

4. Dynamic Tripod Grasp: Around Ages 4-6 Years Old

A dynamic tripod grasp utilizes the tips of the child’s fingers on the writing utensil and they also hold the utensil more at an angle than vertical. Wrist movements are considered dynamic when the child moves them back and forth without any full arm movement. The dynamic tripod grasp has traditionally been considered the preferred grip for writing speed, control, and form.

The four types of grasps demonstrated are some basic grasps recognized. CST Academy acknowledges and supports the natural occurring stages of writing utensil grasps before reaching a mature grasp. The steadier your child’s shoulder and arm muscles are, the more they will stay with a particular grip. A combination of fine and gross motor skills will assist in the transitions.


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