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  • Claire Murphy, MOT, OTR/L

Handling Hand Graps

Parents have heard infant and toddler gross motor developmental milestones frequently enough to know to watch for their child to gain the appropriate skills. Babies begin crawling between 7 to 8 months, walking around 12 months, jumping around 2 years, and riding a bike with training wheels around 4 years.

Working as a pediatric occupational therapist, I have learned that parents are not as familiar with fine motor developmental milestones. They frequently do not know when their child is using an immature hand grasp. It is important to understand age-appropriate hand grasp for your child, so that you can encourage strengthening and enriching activities to promote the development of more advanced hand grasps. It is easier to correct a delayed hand grasp during the developmental time frame, listed below, compared to fixing it when they become school-aged.

1 - 1.5 year old grasp - Palmar Supinated

  • Crayon in fisted hand, thumb facing up

  • Whole arm movements

2 - 3 year old grasp - Digital Pronated

  • Crayon supported between tips of all fingers with end of crayon in palm

  • Thumb facing down

  • Whole arm movements

3.5 - 4 year old grasp - Static Tripod

  • 3 to 4 fingers supporting crayon near middle

  • Whole arm movements

  • Wrist straight

4.5 - 6 year old grasp - Dynamic Tripod

  • 3 to 4 fingers supporting crayon near tip

  • Wrist and finger movement

  • Wrist slightly extended

How can you help make it easier for you child, if your child is inside of these age ranges (or past of these age ranges and using a younger grasp than she should?

An Occupational Therapist (OT) can help determine how your child’s grasp is impacting his function in every day activities. In addition, an OT can assess other performance areas, including: attention, motor coordination, visual motor integration (eye hand coordination), and muscle strength and endurance. After assessing your child, the occupational therapist will provide individualized treatment strategies to improve your child’s ability to participate in fine motor activities.

Below are some general suggestions that might help your child to use a more age-appropriate hand grasp! See an Occupational Therapist for specific suggestions!

If your child is still using a Palmar Supinated Grasp, you could try the following to encourage a Digital Pronated Grasp:

  • Play games to increase shoulder strength (wheelbarrow walks, monkey bars) to increase distal control at the hands and fingers

  • Use large markers and crayons first, as they are easier to control

  • Encourage finger isolation (pointing, pushing pom poms into a bottle, etc.)

If your child is still using a Digital Pronated Grasp, you could try the following to encourage a Static Tripod Grasp:

  • Place a pom pom under her 4th and 5th fingers to keep "hidden" in her palm

  • Use short, broken crayons

  • Play games that require the use of tongs or tweezers to move the pieces

If your child is still using a Static Tripod Grasp, you could try the following to encourage Dynamic Tripod Grasp:

  • Draw dots or put stickers on part of the pencil he should be holding

  • Color/Draw on a vertical surface to promote wrist extension and movement from the wrist and fingers

  • Strengthening activities to increase hand and finder strength (play dough, squirt bottles, etc.)

#FineMotorSkills #HandwritingMilestones #HandwritingSkills

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