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Pencil Grasp

As Occupational Therapists we often get asked if we can help to change a child’s pencil grasp! This is a big question, and one of the key factors we need to consider is the age of the child.

Keep reading to find out what pencil skills to look for as your child ages, and some key difficulties that may mean your child could benefit from working with an Occupational Therapist.

Birth – 4 ½ years

From birth until 4.5 years of age, children are developing what we call their pre-writing skills. These skills form the foundation for writing and develop naturally as children engage in their daily activities. During this time children begin to develop their hand strength, will start to develop interest in drawing and begin to progress through a variety of different types of pencil grasp, as illustrated in the diagram below. Children are not expected to develop a ‘dynamic tripod’ or functional writing grasp until they are between 4.5 and 7 years of age.

If your child is not showing interest in holding a pencil or engaging in tabletop activities, or they are approaching their transition to Prep and you have concerns about their pencil grasp, an Occupational Therapist will be able to assist you by assessing their fine motor skills, identifying any challenges and supporting them to engage in fun fine motor activities.

(Pencil Grasp Development, Erhardt, 1962)











4 ½ years – 9 years

Children between 4 ½ and 9 years of age should now be showing a consistent pencil grasp and are beginning to develop their handwriting skills. Between these ages pencil grasp will begin to become an ingrained skill or habit. This is an important stage of development as it allows the child to direct more of their energy towards more complex tasks including spelling, letter formation, developing their use of language and engaging in creative writing tasks.

If your child is having difficulty engaging in writing tasks at school, complains of hand pain, is slower than their peers’ completing tasks or you cannot read their handwriting, an Occupational Therapist will be able to assist you to assess their handwriting, develop a fine motor program and give you strategies to assist them to develop their writing and pencil grasp.

10 years +

Once children reach 10 years of age, at this point their pencil grasp is mostly fixed, as they have practiced for years holding their pencil in a specific way. After this age it can be very difficult to change pencil grasp, and making any changes requires a significant amount of time, effort, and repetition, for both a child and their family.

If your child is reluctant to engage in writing tasks at school, complains of hand pain, cannot complete their work in the time allocated or teachers cannot read their handwriting, an Occupational Therapist will be able to assist you to assess their handwriting, help to strengthen muscles to minimise fatigue and provide recommendations for alternative options including typing.

If your child is demonstrating difficulties with their pencil grasp which is impacting their writing, please give us a call. Feel free to contact us on 07 3087 1904.


MEGAN WEST (Senior Occupational Therapist).

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