Stacking towers that reach the sky, turning the pages of their favourite board book, playing with pegs from the clothesline, stringing beads for their beautiful bracelets… to kids, this is playtime. Yet, it’s also a pivotal time of learning as they take these unique opportunities to practice their pincer grip – without even realising they’re doing it.
This is where the developing pencil grip naturally starts. With some gentle guidance and plenty of encouragement, you can watch your child as they learn right before your eyes. It’s pretty incredible. But then what? Will they naturally know how to hold a pencil when the time comes? Is there only one correct way for them to do it? How do you teach them this?
Here’s everything you need to know when it comes to developing your little one’s pencil grip – and what to expect from them at different ages.
Finding Their Pincer Grip: 0 to 12 Months
Our gorgeous babies are born ready to learn as they soak up the world around them. Each and every day, as they engage in play it allows their brains to develop – and you play a vital role in that. You’re their first teacher, offering a warm, engaged and responsive environment through those early months.
Welcome to play-based learning. Children don’t need strict lessons and rote materials – all they need is the freedom to explore the world around them as they grow.
Many of those fun games they enjoy in the first year of life, are also core skills that are helping them develop their pincer grip, which is essential to pencil grasp development. Building blocks, turning board book pages, lifting flaps… they’re learning through play as they go.
Activities To Help This Early Stage
Remember, you’re there to guide them through play, not to drill them through lessons. Here are some great play-based activities that help babies develop their pincer grip:
- Reading board books: sit your little one in your lap and enjoy a book together. Encourage them to turn the pages – and help out if they need it.
- Building blocks: babies love making towers. Help your little one along and show them how to stack each one.
- Contact: stick up a sheet of contact on your wall (sticky side out) give your baby a range of soft object to stick onto it, such as pompoms, pipe cleaners, felt and more. They can have fun sticking them on and peeling them off again.
4 Stages Of Pencil Grasp Development: 12 months +
From the moment your child picks up their first crayon – from about the age of 12 months – they head down the path of mastering each of the stages of the pencil grasp. The way they hold their crayon from stage 1 to stage 4 is dependent on how ready their shoulder and arm muscles are to support the grasp. It’s important for your child to work through each one.
Stage 1: Fisted Grasp
This is the first grasp you should see when your toddler’s chubby little hands first reach around a crayon to draw. You’ll notice they move the crayon from the shoulder as they create their very first scribbles (that are hopefully on paper and not the walls!).
Stage 2: Palmer Grasp
Over time, your toddler will gain more control over their arm and hand muscles, as they develop their Palmer Grasp. The entire palm of their hand now faces down and rests on the crayon, with their elbow sitting out to the side to control the movements. Both their arm and shoulder muscles are now working together. Your child will generally develop this grasp around the age of two or three.
Stage 3: Five Finger Pencil Grasp, Quadrupod Grasp and Tripod Grasp
At the next stage, children work their way from having five fingers on the crayon (Five Finger Pencil Grasp), to four fingers (Quadrupod) to just three (Tripod Grasp). The wrist is usually held off the table, with the crayon vertical in their hand. All three of these grasps are considered static, as the fingers don’t move independently. Instead, movement comes from the wrist. Kids usually master these grasps from three-and-a-half to four years.
Stage 4. Dynamic Tripod Grasp
By the time your child reaches school – about four to six years of age – they start using the Dynamic Tripod Grasp. The thumb, middle and index fingers, are all used to grasp the crayon. As their finger muscles develop, your child will rely on their wrist less for movement and use the finger movements to form letters. Writing has begun!
While your child should naturally make their way through these four stages with age, they may need some gentle guidance along the way. Don’t be surprised if they switch between grasps as they go. As the muscles tire, they might revert back to an old grasp to make things easier. This is completely normal.
Activities To Help This Later Stage
Don’t be in a rush to get your child to progress through the stages. Let them hold the crayon however they like – there is no right way in those early days. If you take things too fast, their muscles won’t have a change to develop along the way, which can make things even harder.
Here are some activities you can set up to help them along the way:
- Beading: fine motor skills are a great way to build the muscles in your child’s hands. Give them a box of beads and some string and leave them to their creativity.
- Peg games: kids just love pegs. Head into the washing basket and give your kids a handful to play with. Let them choose what to do with them. The act of opening and closing a peg is perfect for building that muscle.
- Cutting: make sure you have a good pair of child scissors on hand. Cutting is an essential skill when it comes to developing that same control that is needed for using a pencil. But remember, it’s all about fun! Make some masks, boxes, or other creations that need some scissor work.
How Honeysticks Can Help
As you can see, developing your child’s pencil grip is an essential skill in those early years. And it’s one that will serve them well for years to come. This is why we have developed the Honeysticks range kids pencil grip development in mind.
Stage 1: Honeysticks Original Crayons are perfect for this stage. They are short and stubby, so little hands can wrap around them and get creative.
Stage 2: As kids get older and their grip matures, they can move onto our Longs range. They are nice and thick to help them refine their Palmer Grasp and gain more control over their movements.
Stage 3 & 4: Honeysticks Thins Crayons have a classic shape to help kids in those final stages. They encourage the correct finger/hand grasps for drawing and writing.
No matter what stage your child is at, our crayons have been designed to support their grip and help develop it over time. Each range comes in different sizes, because we know all kids are different! You can choose the right style for your little one and support their creativity as you go. It’s fun and learning in one.