One of the key first steps in developing fine motors skills, is the development of the Palmar grasp.
The Palmar grasp involves your child learning to grab an object with their whole hand – including their thumb. While there’s a natural reflex at birth for this kind of motion. It takes some time for your little one to slowly work it out as a deliberate movement.
There are four key stages to a child developing a closed fist grasp of an object
Inferior Palmar Grasp – a palm grasp with the outside of the hand (away from the thumb)
Palmar Grasp – a full palm grasp that includes use of the thumb
Radial Palmer Grasp – grasping an object between the first finger and the thumb
Raking Grasp – using a downturned palm and raking movement of the fingers to bring an item into the palm
To help them in that journey here’s some simple steps and products you can take or use to ensure they build strength and dexterity to support that grip:
- Holding fingers – Making the most of that grasp reflex from birth by placing your fingers in their hands. As they get older you can pull back slightly to test the strength of that grip, avoiding lifting them, but encouraging the full extension of their arms
- Rattles and shakers – Rattles or shakers with extended handles or rounded shapes that your baby can hold easily, shake and bat around gives instant sound feedback to encourage them to move the object around while gripping tightly.
- Pebbl brush – Our very own bath time silicone brush is another great example of a toy that can encourage a full palm grasp, squeezing, and cleaning motions that will all strengthen baby’s grip. Some more on this below
- Throwing balls – This is a great way to teach the grip and release of objects and builds forearm strength as well
The Pebbl bath time brush help kids develop better fine motor skills from a young age
The Palmar grasp is an essential part of any child’s development as they learn self-care and how to perform everyday routine tasks. The strength of that skill is what underpins their confidence when it comes to holding and throwing a ball, grabbing a bike handle tightly or gathering bricks to build a tower. It establishes good foundations that are key to your baby’s confidence in childhood.
The Pebbl brush is designed to help kids in their development of their palmar grasp. The silicone grip, ergonomic design and hollow chamber inside, helps kids from toddler age learn to grip, squeeze and coordinate their movements while washing. You can be confident they’re getting clean and learning core skills at the same time.
How to encourage the development of your child’s pincer grasp
The pincer grip is a more refined finger grip that advances your baby’s fine motor skills further. There are three key stages in this development
Radial digital grip – This is the grip between thumb and first and middle fingers using the flat pads of the fingers and thumb
Inferior pincer grip – This is a refinement of the radial digital grip with your child learning to just use their first finger and thumb, but will still involve them holding the item with the longer pads of their finger and thumb
Pincer grip – Is the full refinement of the grip involving just the tips of the first finger and thumb to pick something up
How to help develop your child’s pen grip
When it comes to stages of development for how a child will grasp a pen correctly, there are a number of important steps along the way that should coincide with the growing strength of their hands and the exercise of their fine motor skills.
The pen grip might overlap with the development of their pincer grip (6-8 months) depending on when you put a pen or pencil in their hands, but it typically takes longer for them to master it because of the strength, dexterity and coordination of different fingers required.
Stages of development for gripping a pen
Cylindrical grasp / palmer supinate grasp – This is a key step on from the Palmar grip with a full clenched fist enclosed around the pen or pencil
Digital pronate grasp – This grip is commonly how kids use utensils to eat. It gets all the fingers pointing in the right direction, but mark making will typically involve fall forearm or arm movements to move the pen or pencil rather than specific finger movements
Static tripod or quadropod grasp – This is when you would first recognise your child holding their pen or pencil ‘correctly’ the fingers form a tripod or qudropod (depending on the number of fingers involved) The 4th and 5th fingers don’t tuck into the rest of the palm and the movement of the hand typically still relies on the movement of the forearm.
Dynamic Tripod grasp – The finessing of the grip involves the 4th and 5th fingers being tucked into the palm and the ‘dynamic’ fingers now are able to move the pen or pencil using the grip without having to move from the wrist and forearm.
How to help your child develop their pen grip
There are great ways to improve your child’s development in holding a pen or pencil. The first is to get them doing it from a young age. Mark making is so important and finding the right crayons or pencils that encourage them is key.
Triangular pens or pencils (non-rounded edges) is a great way to begin as it helps formulate the correct finger placements to use the tripod grip.
Starting with shorter pencils or crayons is also a great way to encourage use of the tripod grip. While children might feel more comfortable holding the crayon or pencil in a Palmar type grasp, you can dissuade them from this with a shorter, stubbier pencil that encourages them to use their fingertips to hold the bottom of the pencil closer to the nib.
Finally, there’s the elastic band trick. Tying an elastic bands around the area where the finger and thumb tips should grip the pencil is a great way to focus kids on where to place their hands. It adds extra grip, and the extra bulkiness also means they don’t need as strong a grip to begin with.
Underlining all these skills those is developing their fine motor strength. So whether you’re thinking specifically about targeting development of your child’s pen grip, a great place to start is just in general hand movements. Games that involve any fine motor skills, picking, squeezing, sorting small objects etc will all help build a basic strength in fingers and thumbs that will help your child with the more specific skills as they grow up.