9 (Fun) Ways to a Mature Grasp

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Does your child struggle with handwriting?  Do they hold their pencil with their whole hand, or tend to hold it in an awkward manner?  Many kids struggle with grasp, but there are also many ways to help.

Today, I would like to share nine playful ways to help develop a mature grasp, from my OT days.

Getting Started - with Art

Before we ever started working on writing, we did tons of arts and crafts.  As you know, gluing, coloring, painting, finger-painting, chalk pastels, and tearing art...all help to develop the muscles of the hand.  Cutting things out with scissors is a great way to strengthen the finger muscles, too, as well as playing with legos, etc.  The web is full of fun ideas for these kinds of activities.

Developing a Mature Grasp

Little ones will naturally begin coloring by holding the crayon with the whole hand.  This is normal for preschoolers and for some kindergarteners, too.

 Some kids gradually move to a mature grasp pattern, over the years, as they grow.....but some kids don’t.  

There are many ways to encourage a more mature grasp. As you see in the photo below, a mature grasp simply refers to the the way we adults usually hold our pens,...

photo credit - Draw Your World
Holding the tip of the pencil or pen with the tips of the thumb and first two fingers – that’s a mature grasp or a tripod grip.

Now, there are many different ways to hold the pencil.  My daughter's grasp is not the same as mine.  But once your child has some type of mature grasp pattern, writing will be a lot easier.
photo credit - Draw Your World
Using the "don't do" grasp patterns are common as your child begins to learn a mature grasp.  Theses often occur from using excessive effort.  As they practice, they will most likely begin to relax.  Short practice sessions are best.

So Here's 9 Fun Ways 
Encourage a Mature Grasp: 

Coloring Trick

Coloring with very short crayons can encourage your child to use his first three fingers, instead of the whole hand! 

When coloring with short crayons, there is more of a chance that your child will grip with the first three fingers only.  There is no room for the other fingers to fit on the crayon!

Here's another way to encourage using the first three fingers....

The Puff Ball Trick

1.  First, get a pencil and a little puff ball, or a cotton ball, or even a small eraser.  
2.  Have your child hold the puff ball with their little and ring fingers, curling the ball into the palm.

This will leave the other three fingers free.

 3. Then give them a pencil, and they will likely grasp it with the thumb, and next two fingers. Horray!!  Have them draw or write with their pencil, this way.

 Alligator Fingers

Make "alligator fingers", using the thumb, index and middle fingers to make an alligator's mouth.  

Play, using a flashlight, to make alligators on the wall!

Play with Clothes Pins

1. Grasp a clothes pin, then line them up on a string, or make little puppets with them, and use them in play.  Pinch the clothes pins with your alligator fingers!   

Add stickers to a paper plate, and squash the stickers with 

the clothes pins!

Tweezers Play

Pick up little things with tweezers, using the first three fingers. Use them to pick up small pieces of macaroni, beans, etc.  

Squeeze glue onto a paper plate, and add macaroni with the tweezers, to make a design!  Or try putting beans into a small
bottle, using the tweezers.

Playing with Tongs

Kitchen Tongs are great for strengthening the muscles for a mature grasp.  Have your kids use their alligator fingers.

Get an egg carton, and small toys,legos, beads, or beans.  Pick up the objects and put them into the egg carton, with the tongs.  

Push Pin Play

Play with push-pins.  Above, for example, I just used a napkin and a piece of cardboard.  Then, with the index finger, or the thumb, my child pushed the pins into the napkin to make a design.  This is great for strengthening.   

Or, try painting the tops of them.  Then, with a piece of cardboard, make them into a design. 

 Playing with Clay

Photo Credit - Oak Meadow

Pinch the playdough or clay, using alligator fingers.

Or try making a clay pizza, and adding little ingredients to it, which can involve squeezing the clay to form pepperoni, onions, etc.

Sometimes, writing on a slanted surface, also can help kids use a mature grasp pattern:

The Binder Trick

Using a large ringed notebook, place the notebook on a table, so that it creates a slanted  surface, facing your child.  Then just place the paper on it, and ask your child to write or draw there.

Model the Tripod Grasp for the child.
photo credit - Draw Your World

Writing on a slanted surface naturally places the wrist so that it is straightened out, just where you want it for ease of writing.  

Some kids enjoy having their paper taped to the frig, above shoulder height, and writing there. Really!

This helps to not only place the wrist properly, it also helps to strengthen the wrist muscles!

What do you like to do to encourage your kids in handwriting?  I love reading your comments!

Happy Homeschooling,


Betsy, a homeschooler and a former OT, blogs about high school,  our steps to collegeand all the fun of homeschooling the early years, too.  As a veteran homeschooler, Betsy also offers free homeschool help to families  

Don't miss a post! 

Copyright 2016 BJ's Homeschool - all rights reserved, including photography


  1. I enjoyed reading this post. We are right at the stage where all my kids are either learning how to write or how to improve their hand-writing. We have a free Sunday today and I'm planning to make some homemade clay and also do some good-old tweezers-and-beans projects with kids. Thanks for linking up @LearningKidLinkup. I hope you will be back next Thursday!

  2. Thanks Kid Minds, for sharing your comments! I love linking up @LearningKidLinkup, where there are so many great ideas and resources for young families. I hope your kids had a lot of fun with their clay and tweezers play day!!

  3. Oooh, great tips on how to develop that mature grasp. I'll have to remember this for my youngest daughter.

    Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop).

    Wishing you a lovely evening.

  4. Thanks, Jennifer, from the Deliberate Mom, for stoppnig by! I plan to link up to the #SHINEbloghop again! I hope these ideas for handwriting will be a help to your daughter.

  5. These are some wonderful ideas. My 7 year old has been struggling with holding the pencil correctly, I am going to have to try some of these ideas.
    Thanks for stopping by and sharing with Littles Learning Link Up. So glad you could join in. I hope you can stop by again this week.

    1. Thanks, kewkew from the Little Learning Link Up! These ideas are from my OT days, and are designed to help kids who struggle with handwriting. Have a good week,