9 Playful Ways to a Mature Grasp

Summary:  How to help your child develop a comfortable mature grasp of their pencil for handwriting.  Tips for the homeschool mom for teaching homeschool handwriting skills to their children and help for those who struggle with grasp, based on my O.T. background.  Games and fun approaches to handwriting.

Does your child struggle with handwriting?  Do they hold their pencil with their whole hand, or tend to hold it in an awkward manner?  

Many kids struggle with grasp, but there are also many ways to help.

Today, I would like to share 9 playful ways to help develop a mature grasp, from my OT days.  But first let's talk about:

- Using arts and crafts or legos to get started
- How kids develop grasp skills
- What a mature grasp pattern really is.

Using Arts and Crafts or Legos to Get Started

Before we ever started working on writing, we did tons of arts and crafts.  As you know, gluing, coloring, painting, finger-painting, chalk pastels, and tearing art...all help to develop the muscles of the hand.  

Cutting things out with scissors is a great way to strengthen the finger muscles, too, as well as playing with legos, etc.  The web is full of fun ideas for these kinds of activities.  Next, let's look at the development of grasp skills...

How Kids Develop Grasp Skills 

Little ones will naturally begin coloring by holding the crayon with the whole hand.  This is normal for preschoolers and for some kindergarteners, too.

Some kids gradually move to a mature grasp pattern, over the years, as they grow.....but some kids don’t.  There are many ways to encourage a more mature grasp. 

What is a Mature Grasp Pattern?

As you see in the photo below, a mature grasp simply refers to the the way we adults usually hold our pens...

photo credit - Draw Your World

Holding the tip of the pencil or pen with the tips of the thumb and first two fingers – that’s a mature grasp or a tripod grip.

Now, there are many different ways to hold the pencil.  My daughter's grasp is not the same as mine.  But once your child has some type of mature grasp pattern, writing will be a lot easier.

Using the "don't do" grasp patterns are common as your child begins to learn a mature grasp.  Theses often occur from using excessive effort.  As they practice, they will most likely begin to relax.  

Now that we have finished with these 3 points, let's go on to look at how we can help our kids with grasp, in a fun, easy to do way!

Here's 9 Fun Ways to Encourage a Mature Grasp: 
1.  Coloring Trick

Coloring with very short crayons can encourage your child to use his first three fingers, instead of the whole hand! 

When coloring with short crayons, there is more of a chance that your child will grip with the first three fingers only.  There is no room for the other fingers to fit on the crayon!

Here's another way to encourage using the first three fingers....

2.  The Puff Ball Trick

-  First, get a pencil and a little puff ball, or a cotton ball, or even a small eraser. 
- Have your child hold the puff ball with their little and ring fingers, curling the ball into the palm.

This will leave the other three fingers free.

 - Then give them a pencil, and they will likely grasp it with the thumb, and next two fingers. 

Have them draw or write with their pencil, this way.

4.  Alligator Fingers

Make "alligator fingers" using the thumb, index and middle fingers to make an alligator's mouth.  

Play, using a flashlight, to make alligators on the wall!

5.  Play with Clothes Pins

-  Grasp a clothes pin, then line them up on a string, or make little puppets with them, and use them in play. 

Pinch the clothes pins with your alligator fingers!  

6.  Tweezers Play

Pick up little things with tweezers, using the first three fingers. Use them to pick up small pieces of macaroni, beans, etc.  

Squeeze glue onto a paper plate, and add macaroni with the tweezers, to make a design!  Or try putting beans into a small bottle, using the tweezers.

7.  Playing with Tongs

Kitchen Tongs are great for strengthening the muscles for a mature grasp.  Have your kids use their alligator fingers.

Get an egg carton, and small toys, beads, or beans.  Pick up the objects and put them into the egg carton, with the tongs.  

8.  Push Pin Play

Play with push-pins.  

Above, for example, I just used a napkin and a piece of cardboard. Then, with the index finger, or the thumb, my child pushed the pins into the napkin to make a design.  This is great for strengthening.   

Or, try painting the tops of them.  Then, with a piece of cardboard, make them into a design. 

9.   Playing with Clay

Photo Credit - www.oakmeadow.com
Pinch the playdough or clay, using alligator fingers. (see # 4.)

Or try making a clay pizza, and adding little ingredients to it, which can involve squeezing the clay to form pepperoni, onions, etc.

Sometimes, writing on a slanted surface, also can help kids use a mature grasp pattern.  Here's an extra idea to try.  We call it the Binder Trick.

Model the Tripod Grasp for the child.
photo credit - Draw Your World
Using a large ringed notebook, place the notebook on a table, so that it creates a slanted  surface, facing your child.  Then just place the paper on it, and ask your child to write or draw there.

Writing on a slanted surface naturally places the wrist so that it is straightened out, just where you want it for ease of writing.  Some kids enjoy having their paper taped to the frig, above shoulder height, and writing. Really!

This helps to not only place the wrist properly, it also helps to strengthen the wrist muscles!

Happy playing and writing!

Thanks for stopping by BJ's Homeschool,


Betsy is mom to her now rising college senior, whom she homeschooled from preK through high school.  She blogs at BJ's Homeschool, about the early yearshigh school & college and wrote - Homeschooling High School with College in Mind.   She offers free homeschool help through messages at BJ's Consulting and has had articles picked up by the Huffington Post.

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  1. Wonderful tips! Handwriting is one of our most important life skills, as well as one of the most neglected in school curriculums today. Healthy pen grip is key to making handwriting fun and easy. Love this article!

  2. Hi Alphabet, Pen and Ink! Nice of you to stop by and comment! Sorry this got lost in the shuffle with blogspot!


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