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How to Help Your Toddler Develop a Tripod Pencil Grasp

Updated on November 7, 2012

Most people use the tripod grasp when writing but teaching a toddler this technique can sometimes be easier said than done. If your child is having a hard time mastering the tripod grasp there are ways to help them.

Small Pieces of Crayons

One technique that is used to help toddlers properly hold a pencil is to give them smaller pieces of crayons to use for drawing. By drawing with smaller crayons it forces the child to hold the crayon with their fingers instead of holding it with their whole hand.

Pencil Grips

There is an assortment of different types of pencil grips on the market that help your child to use the tripod grasp while writing. It is important to choose a pencil grip that can be used with all types of writing instruments such as; pencils, crayons, markers, etc. The pencil grips help by designating the area in which their fingers need to be placed while writing.

The writing noodle slides over the pencil to assist your child with the tripod grasp.
The writing noodle slides over the pencil to assist your child with the tripod grasp. | Source

Writing Noodle

The writing noodle simply slides over the pencil to make it wider. This allows your toddler to easily hold the pencil with the three finger that are used with the tripod grasp. The writing noodle is a soft, cushioned material and it is comfortable to use. It can also be used with crayons and markers.

The Pencil Trick

My husband and son show you how to use the "Pencil Trick" in my video. I will outline the steps below:

  1. Lay the pencil on a flat surface with the point towards your child.
  2. Have your child grasp the pencil near the bottom at the point side.
  3. Instruct your child to pick up the pencil and flip the eraser side up and towards them.
  4. Begin writing!

Fine Motor Skill Development

Fine motor skills need to be developed in order for your toddler to use the tripod pencil grasp. Fine motor skills are the way we use our finger, hands, and arms. They include reaching, and manipulating objects and using objects such as crayons and scissors. Fine motor skill development is often overlooked when a child is an infant or toddler because we do not emphasize the tasks of printing, coloring, and cutting until a child is of preschool age.

Fine motor skills begin to develop at birth just as gross motor skills also begin to develop.

Development of Fine Motor Skills
0 - 4 Months
Your child will develop the ability to move their eyes and head in a coordinated manner from side to side. This Skill is required to further develop his/hers fine motor skills.
4 - 12 Months
Voluntary movements begin and your child will be able to grasp and hold objects. At 4 months they will only be able to hold objects in a closed fist. At around 6 months of age your child will be able to pick up smaller items such as cheerios or raisins. By 12 months your child will be able to pinch and hold small objects between their thumb and index finger the same way adults do.
1 - 2 Years
Your child can now sit without using their arms for support. By 2 years of age they will start demonstrate a favoritism for one hand although from time to time they may alternate hands. The will hold crayons with their fist while drawing.
2 - 3 Years
Hand dominance will continue to emerge but not yet be established. Your child shoud be capable of drawing lines and circles after watching someone else draw them. Your child will hold the crayon with fingers pointing down but still with the entire hand. The position is called the pronated pencil grasp.
2 - 4 Years
At this point your toddler should be able to use the tripod pencil grasp. The child will have a strong preference for a dominant hand and when drawing the lead hand will hold the pencil while the other hand is stabalizing the paper.

Just remember that each child is an individual and not all children develop at the same rate. If you have a concern that your child is not developing as he/she should be please contact your family doctor with any questions you may have.


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