Kids can use some pretty interesting grasps on pencils. You can see the thumb squashed up against the pencil, the pointer finger wrapped around the pencil, or the thumb wrapped around the fingers.
Very often, the pencil grasp that a child is using is not one of stability and rather, is a demonstration of instability as weakness in the muscles of the hand is compensating during handwriting. This thumb wrap pencil grasp exercise is an easy one to put together and one that will help kids gain strength in the muscles that make up a functional grasp. Read on to find out how to work the muscles of the hand to improve the “dreaded” thumb wrap grasp!
An open thumb web space is a skill that can help to fix the thumb wrap grasp. Try these fine motor activities to promote an open thumb web space.
*Note* I am one who takes pencil grasps in stride. So, when I say “dreaded” thumb wrap grasp, I am not completely serious in that this grasp is dreadful or something to fear. Many (many) of us have unique and very functional pencil grasps. The issue is when a quirky grip on the pencil becomes a cause for illegibility, fatigue, joint strain, or other concern. In those cases, a grasp should be addressed.
I’ve had a few questions from readers about the thumb wrap grasp. It seems like this pencil grasp is becoming more prominent in classrooms. The thumb wrap grasp is what you see when you the end of the thumb is wrapped around the pointer finger. While it’s not a completely horrible pencil grasp, it isn’t a great grasp for speed and efficiency in writing.
What is happening when a child uses the Thumb Wrap Grasp?
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The tip of the thumb bends over the pencil and pointer finger, providing stability to the grasp. Instead of using the opposition muscle of the thumb to grasp the pencil, the child is using the adductor muscle. The thumb wrap grasp provides stability but it does not allow for quick pencil movements. As a child is required to write faster to take notes, the legibility of their handwriting will be sacrificed. Rather than moving the pencil with the tips of their thumb and index finger, the child is manipulating pencil motions with their wrist and forearm.
In order to improve this grasp, a child needs to strengthen the opposition muscle, Opponens Pollicis, along with Flexor Pollicis Longus to bend the tip of the thumb or the Interphalnageal Joint (IP Joint) of the thumb. Strengthening the intrinsic muscles along with addressing an open web space will improve IP flexion in pencil grasp.
Exercise to Work on a Thumb Wrap Grasp
This is such an easy activity. Use store bought Play Dough
or homemade sensory dough. Press flower beads
into the play dough with a bent thumb. Encourage your child to press the flowers into the dough using a their their thumb in a bent position on the edge of the flowers. This is important, because it works the muscles needed to oppose with an open web space and flex the tip of the thumb. This is the mobility needed to advance the pencil fluently. These flower beads are perfect for this exercise because of the length of the flower that can press into the Play Dough.
Next, ask your child to pull out all of the flower beads by using the tips of their pointer finger and the tip of the thumb, while ensuring that your child maintains a slightly flexed (bent) thumb IP joint.
Encourage learning and playful math by counting as your child pulls out the flowers. If your kiddo is like my preschooler, those flower beads will be hidden pretty far into the play dough. The search and find is a great overall hand exercise and a fun math activity as you add up the beads!
ONE Simple Trick to Help Kids With Their Pencil Grasp
This pencil grasp exercise will help with many kids that need to work on an open web space, not just the thumb wrap grasp. Try it and let me know how it goes!
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