Parent Resources

Improving Your Child’s Grasp

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Tripod grasp:

The most functional grasp for writing, according to teachers and occupational therapists, is the dynamic tripod grasp. The pencil rests on the first joint of the middle finger with the thumb and index finger holding the pencil in place. The wrist is slightly extended and the forearm rests on the table. The child may need encouragement to use small localized movement of finger joints rather than large arm movements.

To promote the dynamic tripod grasp, encourage the child to flex the ring and little fingers into the palm of the hand. Try giving the child a quarter, marble, small piece of paper or other item to hold with those two fingers in their palm while they write using only the thumb, index, and middle fingers.

Ask the child to make an “O” or “C” shape when they pinch the pencil.

Activities that improve grasp:

Use playdough for pinching and rolling small pieces to strengthen the thumb and fingers. (Use the thumb pad and the pad of the index finger)

Squeeze an eyedropper or medicine dropper (with thumb pad and index finger) filled with colored water or paint to make a picture on paper or coffee filters.

When drawing pictures/ art, use small pieces of chalk (1/2″ o 1″), short pencils, or used/broken pieces of a crayon, which automatically promote correct grasp.

Practice making an “O” shape with the thumb and index finger. Practice picking up small items with your “O”, keeping the ring and little fingers tucked into the palm. If child is unable to do this, give him/her a small piece of crumpled tissue, paper, or piece of candy to hold with the ring and little finger to remind them. Make a game by timing the child as he or she picks up items and places them in a container.

“Finger Tug of War”: use a popsicle stick and have child make an “O” shape with thumb and index finger, keeping joints round and flexed. Pinch the end of the stick and both pull on the ends to see who wins.

Finger “push-ups” using a clothespin. Use pads of thumb and index finger to open a clothespin and count the repetitions. Keep all finger joints rounded or flexed. Try to pick things up using the clothespin.

Hide marbles, buttons, or other items in play dough or clay and use thumb and finger to get them out or push them in.

Tear pieces of construction paper into small pieces to glue onto a picture or shape.

Use tweezers or strawberry huller to pick up items. (try to use only thumb and index finger and/ or middle finger with ring and little finger tucked in)

Some toys and games that elicit grasp patterns are: Lite-Bright, Bingo, Magna-Doodles, Etch-O-Sketch, lacing with beads, puzzles, Ants in Pants game, Trouble game, Connect 4 game, and many more.

Some everyday activities that promote grasp include practice with buttons (big and small), buckles, zippers, tying shoe laces, and snapping snaps.

Cutting paper and progressing to thicker material can promote hand separation, increased hand and finger strength, and coordination.