As your child grows and develops, the way they hold their pencil will begin to change. As you’re guiding them, you want to make sure you’re allowing their fine and gross motor skills to develop.  You don’t want to rush their development. Your child will let you know when they are ready to move forward. Monitor each stage and guide them to make sure they’re learning how to hold the pencil correctly.

There are four stages of pencil grasp development:

Cylindrical (Fisted) Grasp: This is when your toddler grabs the whole pencil/crayon with his/her fist and begins coloring or writing.

Digital (Palmer) Grasp: In this stage, the toddler has a little more control.  The pencil or crayon will usually be held in the palm of his/her hand with the child’s elbow sticking out a little.

Modified Tripod (Five Finger Pencil) Grasp: The child usually uses the wrist to control writing and coloring.

Tripod Pencil Grasp: This is where the thumb, index and middle finger are grasping the pencil.

Making sure that your child masters every stage is essential.  You want to make sure that their arm and shoulder muscles are ready to support their grasp. If their arm and shoulder muscles aren’t prepared to support their grasp, it can impact their fine motor skills.  As a result, the child will produce messy work and experience fatigue and discomfort in their hands and fingers when writing. When a child develops their fine motor skills over time, it allows them to write neatly at a reasonable speed.

As your child is developing in the area of writing, try the following:

  1. Use a pencil grip.  You can find them on Amazon.  Click here to view different options.
  2. Use hand-over-hand. This is where you place your hand over the child’s hand and guide them while they’re writing.
  3. Sample hand/finger strengthening activities  (cutting with scissors, play with play-doh, tear up pieces of paper, crumple up pieces of tissue paper into tiny balls, let the child “walk” a ball up and down their legs only using their fingers).
  4. Slant board. This piece of assistive technology can assist a child with positioning (shoulder and wrist), wrist extension, visual tracking, and paper stability. Click here to view on Amazon.
  5. Ticonderoga pencil (fat pencil). These pencils are great for beginning writers. I suggest using this pencil until the child is 6 years old. Click here to find on Amazon.

If you have any other questions about the pencil grasp, please feel free to email me at


Educationally Speaking,



2 thoughts on “Pencil Grasp Development

  1. Hello, how is my son can do the tripod on his own, but he is only 1 year 6 months? Is it normal, or there is a anormally?


    1. Hello,

      During my years and experience as an educator, I’ve never seen that before. The grasp of a child is usually consistent with them grabbing an object with all 5 fingers. Later on, as they develop their muscles and fine-tune their motor-development, they work their way to the tripod grasp. Is the grip consistent? A child doesn’t usually master the tripod grasp until about 4.5 or 5 years old. The only way we can gauge mastery is through his ability to “write.” I would honestly have to see his grasp so that I can make a good call. I hope this helps.


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