The dynamic tripod
The reason the dynamic tripod is championed is because it provides the highest amount of pencil control for the least amount of muscle effort. This helps to facilitate speed of writing. The reason so much focus is put onto this grasp, in my opinion, is that it is because the other grasps are less efficient. In reality however, it is common to see a variation of this grasp in adults and children.
Let’s explore the stages of pencil grasp development, and some examples of functional and less functional grasps.
The stages of pencil grasp development
Pencil grasp, like all motor skills, develops in a sequence. Initially, the child uses a larger or gross grasp. As they get older, their pencil grasp matures. To be efficient with their pencil skills, the child also needs to be able to hold the paper steady with their other hand. There are four main stages that the child will progress through.
Gross or palmer grasp
To begin with, the child will use what is called a ‘gross grasp‘ or a ‘palmer grasp’. This is typical for a 12-18 month year old. The child will hold their pencil with their fist. They can make large movements and their colouring is not very controlled.
Digital pronate grasp
Between 2-3 years of age a child will start to use what is called a ‘digital pronate grasp’. This is where the child will turn their palm around so their little finger faces the ceiling. They continue to hold the pencil in all of their fingers, with it resting against their palm. The child begins to have more control over their pencil.
Around the age of 3 ½ to 4 years old the child will turn their hand over so their little finger faces their paper. They start with what is called a ‘static tripod grasp’. The pencil is held in between the tips of the thumb, index and middle finger, however the child controls the movement from their wrist and elbow. This is why it is called a ‘static’ tripod.
Dynamic tripod pencil grasp
In a ‘dynamic tripod grasp’ the pencil remains held in between the tips of the thumb, index and middle finger, as shown above. The index finger should be controlling the movement and the thumb and middle finger help with directional control. This finger movement is what separates a ‘dynamic tripod’ or ‘moving tripod’ from its less mature ‘static tripod’ or ‘still tripod’. The fingers are in the same position for both grasps, but when a child has developed dynamic control their fingers control the pencil movement.