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What are the different grip and grasp patterns of preschoolers?

Jamie Cruz, MOT, OTR/L, Emily Dassow, BS, OTR/L

November 15, 2023

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Question

What are the different grip and grasp patterns of preschoolers?

Answer

Around the toddler stage, we see the emergence of the pincer grasp, where the index finger and thumb come together to pinch or grasp objects precisely. A lateral pinch uses the thumb and side of the index finger, like holding a key. A hook grasp involves curling just the fingertips without the thumb to grasp things like buckets. A spherical grasp uses the whole hand to surround and palm a rounded object.

Around ages 3-4, more mature grasp patterns start forming for holding writing tools. The cylindrical/gross/palmar grasp involves fisting the whole hand and thumb around a crayon or marker. This progresses to the more refined tripod, adapted tripod, and quadrupod grasp. The tripod grasp uses the thumb, index, and middle fingers in the classic pencil grip. The adapted tripod positions the tool between the index and middle fingers with the thumb stabilizing - an efficient pattern that reduces finger strain. The quadrupod adds the ring finger for extra stability. All three are developmentally appropriate grasps we look for when assessing preschoolers' advancing fine motor skills. Knowing the sequence helps us support their progression.

This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, The Benefits of Fine Motor Skills in Early Educationpresented by Jamie Cruz, MOT, OTR/L and Emily Dassow, BS, OTR/L.


jamie cruz

Jamie Cruz, MOT, OTR/L

Jamie Cruz is a creative and playful pediatric Occupational Therapist in the northern Los Angeles area. Jamie has worked in a variety of settings including school-based practice, early intervention, and clinic-based private practice. Jamie is certified in Ayres Sensory Integration Praxis Test (SIPT) theory and intervention. She has a personal interest and clinical experience working with children with ADHD, Anxiety, OCD, and Sensory Processing disorders.  She has a special interest in play-based and nature-based therapy and has seen the well-researched benefits firsthand in her own children. Jamie is a wife and mother of 3 young children and has been homeschooling her children in Santa Clarita, CA for the last 6 years.  Jamie enjoys camping, visiting national parks, going to the beach, hiking, and traveling. 


emily dassow

Emily Dassow, BS, OTR/L

Emily Dassow, OTR/L is an energetic and sought-after occupational therapist with a passion for working with children with sensory integration disorders (SIPT certified). Emily currently works with schools in the Los Angeles area working with students ranging from preschool to middle school and at a private clinic in Tarzana, California. In addition, Emily enjoys supervising, educating, and sharing her enthusiasm with the newest generation of occupational therapists as a clinical instructor to level one and two students from universities across the country.  Emily has also presented nationally on relating school-based occupational therapy to Common Core State Standards. She enjoys spending time with her husband and 3 young sons, cooking, scuba diving, and traveling in her free time.


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