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Research Round-Up: Today's Topic is Pencil Grasps.


When should you change a child's pencil grasp? This is one question you hear many times as an OT. For the answer, let's turn to research!


Published in 2012 by The American Journal of Occupational Therapy researchers looked at 120 fourth grade students, asking them to complete a ten-minute copying task. Researchers categorized the different types of pencil grasps into six categories considered either "mature", "immature", or "alternating".


After the copying was done, results showed that each of the four "mature" grasp types worked equally well and did not affect writing speed and legibility. So what does this tell us?

Mainly, that we should try to promote a more "mature" grasp, meaning the child should demonstrate an "Open Web Space" (as seen in the picture to the right). In other words, the forefinger and thumb should form a circle.

To the left, on the other hand, is a "Closed Web Space". See how tightly the thumb presses against the pencil and the forefinger? See how the thumb and forefinger would not move well?


At home or school, try some fun ideas to promote an "Open Web Space":

1- Clothespins!

Hang a string at home or in your classroom. Have the child hang to-do lists on it, grocery lists. Ask everyone to name their favorite animals on a piece of paper or their favorite books. Hang these on the string for all to see and read. The ideas are endless - but make sure the child does this task EVERY day to promote development of that open web space.

2- Pushpins!

Print a simple picture of anything - a spaceship, a knight, a dress, a cowboy/cowgirl boot. Have the child lay on a carpet and in a safe and supervised way, they push a pin into the paper, all around the outside of it, to make holes. Then color the picture and hang it in a window to let the sun shine through it.

3- Play Dough Bowling!

This is a personal favorite of mine. (Because it's really fun!) Roll play dough to make a couple of miniature bowling balls. Then make mini-mini bowling pins. Time for fun! Set up the pins, pressing them down hard so they stick on a flat surface. Then bowl, taking turns to knock down the pins with the bowling ball.

As hands develop, so should the "Open Web Space". This will help the child develop a more "mature" grasp, and that will help handwriting efficiency and legibility!

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