2 Magical Crayons That Will Immediately Change Your Child’s Grasp

<How to change your child’s grasp by changing their crayons>

“He uses all of his fingers…  and he gets annoyed when I correct him!”

As a pediatric Occupational Therapist, I hear this from a lot of moms and teachers.  Pencil and crayon grip is important, and it can be difficult to change when a child gets older.

But there’s hope!  I promise!

CASE STUDY: HARRY

This is Harry, a 4-year-old with no interest in crayons.  In the first picture, he’s using a palmar supinate grasp, which is typically seen in 1 to 1 ½ year olds.  His mom, a teacher that I work, with approached me looking for help.  Her question: 

How can I change my child’s grasp?

Change your child's grasp

Harry’s preferred grasp was a palmar supinate, using the pinky side of his hand to control the movement of the crayon. This grasp was inefficient and immature for his age.  It also didn’t allow the small isolated movements of his fingers during writing and drawing activities.  Coloring and drawing is a significant source of the fine motor exercise a 4-year-old child should be getting.  So if the child isn’t using the right muscles for the activity, they are missing out on valuable strengthening time.

 

As you can see by the 2nd image above, Harry’s mom took my recommendations – and it WORKED!
I’m so excited to share my favorite trick to stop kids from using too many fingers AND 2 magical crayons to use.  But here’s why these tricks are important for parents and teachers to know.

does grip really matter?

It’s normal for children to change grasp patterns as they grow from a baby to a toddler to a child, but IT IS important that they develop an efficient grasp.  Preschool teachers should focus on developing the full potential of children’s hands for fine motor skills early on.  It’s much harder to change an inefficient grasp once it’s “locked in”. 

Many parents and teachers disregard a grip that isn’t perfect.   Is it really a big deal?  

It’s important to realize that a crayon grasp is just one aspect of hand development, but it can impact the skilled and precise hand movements that your child may need in the future.

Don’t be alarmed if your child seems to be a little behind.  As you can see by Harry’s case above, changing the crayons can have a magical effect on a child’s grip.

*BUT, if you feel that your child is significantly behind, you should consult your child’s physician or an occupational therapist.

3 Rules to Helping Your Child Hold Their CRAYON Correctly 

  1. Make sure you teach your child the correct position of the fingers.  I like to use this story: How to hold your crayon

2.  Remind them often.  Make sure you are aware of what grasp is age appropriate. But if they are behind, remind them how to hold it.  Children need to practice, and learning the story above can help them to remember where their fingers should go.

3. Use small crayons.  Handwriting experts and occupational therapists actually recommend using small pencils or broken crayons for your child as they begin to write and color more often.

My advice for Harry’s mom: 
 I told her to immediately switch crayons and put away the large markers and crayons.

WHY USE SMALLER CRAYONS TO CHANGE YOUR CHILD’S GRASP?

Tiny crayons are much easier for those little hands to manipulate.  Smaller crayons allow a child to manipulate the pencil more easily, which discourages them from using too many fingers, pressing too hard, or scribbling outside the lines.  Also, children tend to switch to a more “precise” pinching grasp in order to manipulate the smaller tool with control.

SO Which SMALLER CRAYONS SHOULD KIDS USE?

Good old regular crayons are fine.  BUT – if you see that your child is using a really peculiar grasp or too many fingers, you may want to go with any of these three options to change your child’s grasp.

  1.  Broken crayons should be an inch or smaller.  Many moms cringe at this (teachers too) because we remember the awesome feeling of getting a brand new pack of crayons.  There was nothing better than that!  If the broken crayon thing bothers you, there are a lot of cute new crayons that are good for encouraging a proper grip.
These are featured in the picture above, the second picture of Harry.

They are small, rounded “rocks” of crayon that come in multiple colors.  They are great for encouraging a more mature grasp because they are too little for a child to use all their fingers.

3.  Use Handwriting Without Tears Flip Crayons

Flip crayons

Flip crayons are small, with two colors on each crayon. They encourage in-hand manipulation when the child “flips” the crayon to use the other color.

If your child is still using too many fingers with the flip crayons, I recommend breaking them in half.  Check out the difference in size.

Change your child's grasp

How else can you change your child’s grasp?

There are many ways to improve a child’s grasp.  Hand strengthening activities can help little hands so grasping and coloring isn’t such a chore.  Play-doh, clay, and cookie making are all good for hand strengthening, too.

So are fine motor toys:

Down-size those crayons! Or at the very least – break ’em!  The smaller the better.  Have fun!

Don’t forget to read this:

no jumbo crayons

Why parents shouldn’t buy JUMBO crayons for their kindergarten students… what parents need to know.

Want more great tips to improve your child’s skills? Check out The Handwriting Book, written by a team of ten pediatric OTs and PTs to help parents, therapists, and teachers just like you!

Handwriting and Middle School

References:

Benbow, M. (1987). Sensory and motor measurements of dynamic tripod skill.  Unpublished masters thesis.  Boston, MA: Boston University.

Zivani, J. (1987). Pencil grasp and manipulation. In J. Alston & J. Taylor (Eds.). Handwriting: theory, research, and practice (pp. 24-39).  London: Croom Helm.

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6 thoughts on “2 Magical Crayons That Will Immediately Change Your Child’s Grasp

  1. Leslie says:

    Great article as always Jamie! Very parent friendly. On your other fine motor activity ideas, it looks like the items are linked to an affiliate website but, when I click doesn’t go anywhere. 🙂 Just wondering because I have been looking for a litebrite for my OT students for forever and just wondered which one you were referencing.

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