School-based OTs often get questions from parents and teachers regarding their student’s pencil grasp. Here are tips for promoting functional pencil grasp in the classroom and at home.
The Importance of Pencil Grasp
By age six, students should be able to write and color with a functional grasp. There are a variety of pencil grasps that can be considered functional including a tripod (three-finger grasp) and a quadrupod (four-finger grasp), among others.
Once a student has developed their pencil grasp and has been writing with the grasp for many years, it can be very difficult (and likely unnecessary) to change. Research shows that pencil grasp does not necessarily impact writing legibility (Schwellnus et al., 2012). However, there are some reasons that a pencil grasp should be corrected including: pain, fatigue, stress on the joints of the hand, and decreased writing speed.
It is important to offer a variety of activities to children before the age of six to promote the development of a functional grasp from a young age.
Tips for Promoting Functional Pencil Grasp
Here are some ideas for fun activities that can be done at home or school that require the use of a tripod grasp.
- Painting with Q-tips or small pieces of a sponge
- Stringing cubes or beads
- Using tweezers to pick up items, transfer items, or remove items from playdough
- Playing with blocks or Legos
- Making a sticker collage
- Playing with finger puppets on the thumb, pointer and middle fingers
- Using stencils with a tripod grasp
- Using dot markers
- Drawing with chalk
Here are some strategies to try in the classroom during writing or coloring activities to promote the use a functional tripod grasp.
- Provide students with short pencils (for example golf pencils)
- Use small broken pieces of crayons
- Use a rubber band wrapped around the pencil as a makeshift pencil grip
- Demonstrate a tripod grasp prior to writing activities
- Place a visual of a tripod grasp on the desk during writing activities
- Have student hold a small object in their pinky and ring fingers while writing (such as a pompom, marble or eraser)
Thanks for reading our resource on how school OTs can help promote functional pencil grasp in the classroom and beyond. We hope you find this a welcome addition to your occupational therapy toolkit!