Pencil grasp development is a huge milestone for toddlers but they don get there overnight. This is something they start working on as a baby while grasping on to things and also through crawling and other gross motor activities.
It takes a lot of arm, shoulder, core, hand and finger muscle control to get to a mature level of fine motor control. It is a natural process and kids will get there at their own pace
As parents, it is important not to force them to hold the pencil with those three fingers when they are not ready, it can lead to a lot of harm than good and its not easy to unlearn a bad pencil grip. I know this myself because I had a weird pencil hold as a kid and I have gotten shamed for it so many times. It took years to unlearn and learn the right way.
The best thing we can do is to guide our kids through this natural development process by giving them plenty of activities and opportunities to perfect those fine motor skills and develop the necessary finger and muscle control.
Here are few ideas to get started
1) Squeeze bottles
Helps develop Palmer grasp through squeezing. Squeeze out flour or salt on to lines and curves. Also helps them with visual recognition and the left to write writing motion
2) Spray bottles
There are a multitude of activities you can do with spray bottles. Get them involved in window cleaning, watering plants or spray on to alphabets and make them disappear
3) Finger isolation painting
Helps gain finger control. We use food coloring, you can use finger paints to make imprints on to line and curves or any design for fun
4) Threading activities
Threading requires coordination from both hands and it helps to master how to hold the paper down while writing
5) Play dough
The squeezing and molding motions of hand is great for hand muscle control. You can even make your own play dough
Home made play dough recipe: 1 cup flour + 1/4 cup salt + 3/4 cup water + 3 tbsp lemon juice + 1 tbsp vegetable oil + food coloring (Source: funlearningforkids.com)
6) Sticker peeling
Those pinching movements are great for finger muscle control. Have them align the stickers on to a zig zag line or curve.
These are another great tool to help with finger muscle control. Young toddlers can use a toddler scissor and it will take some practice for them to get a hang of this
8) Push pin peg boards
Push pins on to the desired shapes. Have them align a rubber band in different shapes. You can even make your own peg boards at home or they are available to buy too.
9) Sponge squeezing activity
Palmer grasp development. Squeeze soapy water from one container to another. A great sensory activity too. You can even do this in bath tub to avoid messes.
A great tool to help with hand and finger control. Toddlers love transferring things. We use tongs and pom poms all the time for our counting activities
11) Puzzles with peg
The very act of pinching is similar to holding a pencil and we are developing that muscle memory
12) Dotting with q-tips
Same concept of building the muscle memory
Taking the block pieces on and off helps to work those hand muscles
14) Eye droppers
Another pinching activity for muscle control
15) Hand puppets
Great for finger isolation and control
These are great starter activities for young toddlers to practice and perfect their fine motor control before they are ready for the real pre-writing exercises.
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