A poor pencil grip sometimes dramatically referred to as the “death grip”, is define by Occupational Therapists and Handwriting Teachers as any that causes a closed web space, restricting the movement of the fingers and wrist, making handwriting hard work.
The most effective grip recommended for children by Occupational Therapists and Handwriting Specialists worldwide is the tripod grip, which gives an open web space. This allows the fingers to move freely so that a fluid handwriting style can be achieved.
There are 5 developmental stages, that a child needs to go through, before they can successfully use a mature tripod grip. They need to work through each stage and as their hand, shoulder and arm strength and mobility increases so does their ability to move to the next developmental stage of the grip. Children develop through these grip stages over time with new experiences using different tools and drawing/writing mediums especially in the early years (0 to 4 years old).
You will find that young children will move between, or have slightly different versions of, the grips depending on the task or the effect they are trying to achieve. This is exactly what we want to happen.
Stage 1. Palmer-supinate grasp
Holds the crayon/pencil in fist (whole hand) like a dagger. They use whole arm movements from the shoulder to mark-make. Due to this whole arm movement they prefer to work on a vertical surface.
Stage 2. Palmer or digital-pronate grasp
Holds a crayon/pencil with the palm of the hand facing down towards the paper. The crayon/pencil is held by all finger and the thumb. The movement comes from the shoulder and elbow. Again, due to the way the arm moves a vertical surface is preferred.
Stage 3. Four finger and thumb grip
Holds the crayon/pencil between the thumb and four fingers with the crayon/pencil nearly vertical up right position. Movement comes from the elbow and wrist.
Stage 4. Static Quadruped or tripod grip
Holds the pencil in very nearly in the correct position however the web space is narrower than it would be if held in a mature tripod grip. This means that the movement is coming from the wrist and large finger movements.
Stage 5. Mature/Dynamic tripod grip
This is traditionally considered the most appropriate pencil grip for handwriting. Holding the pencil between the thumb and index finger with pencil supported on the middle finger. The ring and little fingers are gently curled inwards. This give an open wide web space which means the movement comes from the fingers. For more information on the five stages of pencil grip development click on the following link: https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/pencil-grip-development-foundation-stage.html
For example, young Billy here is using a variation of a stage 1 – 3 throughout these colouring activities:
In this example it might look as if Billy has gone backwards in his grip development but he has not, he has learnt that the grip he is using offers him greater control:
Young William here is using different variations of stages 2 and 3 for gluing and painting activities:
Esme and Issy have both moved to stage 4 although for some activities such as drawing/painting they may use a different grip, but that is what we would expect to see.
The Easter Holidays have started, so here are some fun activities to keep children of all ages entertained whether we have rain or sunshine.
An Easter egg, or treasure, hunt is a great way to teach children directional language. Being able to understand directional and placement (prepositions) vocabulary is important for understanding everyday instructions such as ‘put your cup on the table’; ‘go along the hall and stop at the door in front of you’.
We also use this directional language to explain how to draw patterns and write letters, which is another reason why it is important for young children to be introduced to, and have a good understanding of, this kind of vocabulary.
Through Easter egg, or treasure, hunts you can introduce new directional and placement language in a fun and exciting way. There are a number of different ways to approach this:
You can give verbal instructions to the hidden egg/treasure.
You could create a map for them to follow and ask them to talk you through the map, supporting them with new language as necessary.
You could use a mixture of verbal and map clues.
For older children get them to hide the egg/treasure and give you instructions, or draw a map.
If you have more than one egg/treasure and they are of different sizes make the larger ones more difficult to find.
The important thing is the language shared. Words and phrases to use are: left, right, straight on, forward, backwards, about turn, turn around, up, down, higher, lower, stop, next to, in front, beside, underneath, on top of, behind, on the left of, on the right of, outside, and inside.
Easter egg, or treasure, hunts are a great whole family activity and you are never too young or too old to join in!