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How Children Learn to Write

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Learning to write is one of the most complex motor skills to master. Toddlers begin developing the necessary skills when they start scribbling on paper by making horizontal and vertical marks, and this then becomes scribbles in a circular motion. After this, children then start to form shapes and eventually letters. Children will go through a variety of different grips until their hand muscles are strong enough to achieve a tripod pencil grasp.

The developmental stages of a pencil grip are:

1.  Fisted Grasp

Children hold the pencil like a dagger with the thumb on top. The movement comes from the shoulder and results in large movements across the paper.

2.  Palmar Grasp

All fingers curl around the pencil and their palm faces the paper. The child will have more control over the marks they make as the movement comes from the elbow.

Palmar Grasp - Children Writing

3.  Five or Four Finger Pencil Grasp

The child holds the pencil between their thumb and fingers but needs to use 4 or 5 fingers to control the pencil. They will now start making dots and shapes on the page.

Five or Four Finger Pencil Grasp - Children Writing

4.  Static Tripod Grip

The child is now able to hold the pencil in a mature 3 finger tripod grip, but the fingers will be stiff and movement will come from the elbow still.

Static Tripod Grip - Children Writing

5.  Dynamic Tripod Grip

The child has developed muscles strong enough to hold the pencil in a tripod grasp, and the movement will come from the wrists and fingers.

Dynamic Tripod Grip - Children Writing

Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) often have difficulty with handwriting and find it hard to establish a mature grip. MagnaGrips are gloves currently being developed with magnets in the fingertips to help people achieve a pincer grip. The gloves can be used to train the hand muscles in order to help with dexterity and fine motor skills. The gloves make exercises more exciting and fun and provide resistance that will enable muscles to strengthen.  They can also be used on both hands to help encourage hands to midline, which will help improve bilateral motor tasks. Unfortunately these gloves are not yet on the market but keep your eyes peeled!