Young children’s first experience on the handwriting journey is through mark-making and simple drawings, whether it is with finger-paints, writing in sand or with pencils and crayons.
From about the age of 2, children start to move from a simple grasping (primitive) grip to one that secures the writing tool between the fingers and the thumb. In the early stages of mark-making and drawing young children will try different grips and holds, which is part of their normal development for handwriting and drawing.
As young children’s body (gross motor skills), hand strength and dexterity (fine motor skills) are developing they need a range of pencil, crayon and paint brush thicknesses. Young children need the thicker drawing tools as they can grip them more easily, helping them to mark-make. If the pencil is too thin, they find it difficult to grasp and have little control over it, making the drawing experience unsuccessful, which can lead to frustration and discourage them from trying again.
Due to the stage of their physical development young children use large movements to draw (from the shoulder rather than the wrist) which often creates larger shapes and lines.
During the early stages a vertical drawing and painting surface is important as it allows the child the freedom of movement to fully explore their mark-making potential. It also helps young children to develop the wrist strength and flexibility which they will need later to hold a pencil correctly for handwriting.
Using plain paper and surfaces is considered best for young children as they find it less restrictive.
It has been widely acknowledged that a child who is forced to hold a writing tool using the dynamic tripod grip, before they are developmentally ready, can be turned off engaging in the drawing/writing process as well as developing a poor pencil grip later on. Remember some children do not develop the ability to use the dynamic tripod grip until the age of 5/6 years old.
As a child’s gross and fine motor skills develop so does their pencil grip and ability to draw and write at a small scale moving more from the elbow and wrist and progressing through the grip stages.
For more information on pencil grip development use this link: https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/grip-development.html