Have you ever looked at the way your child holds a pencil and wondered if his grasp is correct?
When entering the New York City kindergarten admissions process, it is key your child uses a mature grip when asked to write or draw. The way your child is holding his pencil is almost always noted and included in the kindergarten interview and playdate procedures.
At age 4, a child should have the ability to separate the two sides of the hand: the “thumb side” and the “pinky side”.
The ring and pinky fingers should be tucked against the palm (known as the pinky or stable side of the hand), while the thumb, pointer and middle fingers are used to manipulate a pencil (known as the “thumb side” or “mover side”).
Once the separation of the hand is developed, your child is ready to work on appropriate grasp patterns to support kindergarten writing skills. The two most accepted grasps that will impact your child’s success in kindergarten and throughout elementary school are the quadrupod and tripod grasps.
This photo demonstrates the four fingers used in a quadrupod grasp. The thumb, pointer and middle fingers typically hold the pencil, while the ring finger is used as a resting place. This functional grasp can be used throughout childhood and adulthood.
There are two types of tripod grasps. In a static tripod grasp, the child’s fingers do not move while coloring or writing. This is typically developed between 3 ½ to 4 years of age. In a dynamic tripod grasp, the fingers move during writing tasks. This grasp is typically developed between 4 and 6 years.
The photo below demonstrates a tripod grasp. This is the grasp I strive for my students to develop. The pinky and ring fingers are tucked against the palm, while the thumb and pointer fingers manipulate the pencil. The middle finger acts as a resting place.
Parents frequently ask me, “How do I change my child’s grasp pattern?”. Have your child practice using their thumb, pointer and middle fingers in non-writing tasks while the ring and pinky fingers remain tucked against their palm.
Activities to facilitate a mature tripod grasp –
Remember, the thumb, pointer and middle fingers should be doing the work:
- Strawberry pickers- pick up pom poms or tissue paper balls
- Pinching Play-doh
- Pulling and pushing small pop beads
- Manipulating wind up toys
- Create pictures with small eye droppers and colored water
- Squeeze clothespins onto a string
- Peel stickers
If you have tried working with your child on improving grasping skills, but have yet to notice progress, you may wish to consult with a pediatric Occupational Therapist that specializes in handwriting.
Good luck and have fun!
Lauren Stern, OTR/L, is a NYC pediatric Occupational Therapist specializing in handwriting. She is part of our Manhattan Kindergarten Prep team. We help prepare your child for NYC kindergarten admission interviews and beyond. If you live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and are interested in our programs, please contact Stephanie Sigal at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Thank you!