Have you ever heard your child say, “I’m not using that crayon, its broken!”? Maybe you agreed with the child and thought to yourself that it would be best to de-clutter the crayon box and just throw those broken crayon pieces away. This post will help you to re-consider tossing those broken crayon pieces away and instead give you insight as to why those broken pieces are valuable tools to help with your child’s handwriting skills.
How is your child holding their crayon?
Have you noticed how your child is holding his crayons? Take a look at this timeline of suggested grasp patterns (adopted from the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales Growth Chart) and see if your child’s grasp pattern aligns with the suggested recommendations.
Please note that these are only suggested guidelines and variations can occur; however this growth chart is considered the “norm” for many occupational therapists and handwriting professionals.
(0-12 months)- The child is grasping crayon with all five fingers in a fist formation on the crayon
(12-15 months)- The child should begin to grasp the pencil with 5 fingers on the crayon (spread out, not in a fist pattern anymore) but with an index finger and wrist pointed downward towards the paper.
(3-3.5 years)- The child should be able to hold a crayon with 2 fingers (thumb and pad of index finger) with 3 other fingers secured in palm. Or the child should be able to use a static tripod grasp with 3 fingers on the crayon (thumb, index, and middle finger) with the child holding the crayon between the pad of the index finger and thumb, and resting on the side of the middle finger. In a static tripod grasp, the whole hand moves as a
large unit, rather than moving with refined individual finger and wrist movements
(3.5-4.5 years)- The child should be able to hold a crayon with only 3 fingers holding onto the crayon (thumb, index, and middle) in the static tripod grasp mentioned above. The difference at this age is that the child’s finger and wrist movements are becoming more refined and are able to be separated from whole hand and arm movements (dynamic tripod grasp). This is the ideal grip for the rest of the child’s life and into adulthood!
How Can I Improve My Child’s Pencil Grasp?
If your child is not on target with these recommendations, don’t panic, in most cases, changes can occur. When children are still young and developing, their pencil grips are still able to be changed, corrected and developed much easier than later on into older childhood. In many cases, when young children do not use a mature grip for their age, it is due to a decrease in hand strength and dexterity.
The best solution for improving pencil grips is not sit the child down and have him just continue practice writing and gripe at him to “hold the pencil the right way”(this will only cause more stress on both you and the child without helping address the real issue). The most effective way to help promote a more mature pencil grip is through active play and weight bearing activities with their hands. Here are some ideas for fun active play that will strengthen your child’s hands and in turn improve pencil grip!
- Crawling (even if they are older children and can walk or run, incorporate crawling into obstacle courses, relay races, hide and seek games, etc..)
- Climbing (go to a playground and use the climbing apparatuses)
- Tug-of-War games
- Hanging from monkey bars (even if they can’t advance, just hanging from the bar will help)
- Building objects with Playdoh
- Yoga Poses
Please note: Despite what some kids (and parents) would like to believe, playing video games with hand held controllers is not an effective method for hand strengthening.
So, why break the crayons?
Until the child’s strength develops further or until bad habits are corrected, breaking crayons into small pieces prevents the child from grasping the crayon with 4 or 5 fingers and forces them to hold the crayon with 3 fingers instead. For a child with an immature grasp, holding onto a short, broken crayon with 3 fingers will be difficult and awkward at first. But, as the child increases his strength (through active play), holding the crayon with 3 fingers in a tripod grasp will become easier to do. Plus, it will also be easier for the child to form a good habit at a young age, rather than break a bad habit at an older age. So yes, please break those crayons!