Helpful Hints for Pencil Grasp

  • Did you know that a three fingered pencil grasp develops at 3 1/2 years?

    A three fingered pencil grasp, often referred to as a tripod grasp, is a mature way of holding a writing implement, such as a pencil or crayon, in the hand.  It involves the thumb, the index finger, and the middle finger.

    Children should hold their pencil with their thumb, index finger, and middle fingers.  The tips of the thumb and index finger should touch so that they form an open circle in the hand.  The middle finger should rest below the writing implement.  The ring and little fingers should be tucked out of the way.


    What can you do to encourage a three fingered pencil grasp?

    Children can engage in various "play" activities that encourage a proper pencil grasp.  Below are some suggestions:

    • Use a water bottle to squirt plants or a balloon taped to a wall.  Use thumb, index, and middle fingers on the trigger of the bottle.
    • Use a squirt gun to wash off things, ex: paint, chalk on sidewalk, shaving cream on shower wall, or squirt into a pan of soap suds to make more bubbles.  Use thumb, index, and middle fingers on the trigger of the squirt gun.
    • Use spring-type clothespins to pick up objects.
    • Sort items with tweezers.
    • Roll small pieces of clay or crumbled paper with only thumb, index, and middle fingers.  Keep ring and little (pinky) fingers tucked away.
    • Pinch small objects using thumb and index finger ("pinchers") and/or thumb, index, and middle fingers ("writing fingers").  Keep ring and little fingers tucked away.

    Below are a few suggestions of how to improve pencil grasp when holding a writing implement:

    • Children should be encouraged to hold the writing implement on the paint of the pencil or the black squiggly lines of a crayon.
    • Use broken crayons or small pieces of chalk when coloring and drawing. 
    • Place a pencil gripper on the pencil.  Your child's therapist can help you find the most appropriate gripper for your child.
    • Children should be encouraged to initially pick up the writing implement and correctly place it in the hand.  Next, they should be encouraged to write their name using the appropriate grasp patter.  Then, they should progress to holding the implement correctly for longer periods of time.