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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



What are the different grip and grasp patterns of preschoolers?


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.

Related Courses

Sensory Processing for Early Education
Presented by Jamie Cruz, MOT, OTR/L, Emily Dassow, BS, OTR/L


Jamie Cruz, MOT, OTR/LEmily Dassow, BS, OTR/L
Course: #32307Level: AdvancedSubject Area: Understanding principles of child development and learning6 Hours
  'The information that was given was wonderful things I can use in my classroom'   Read Reviews
Learn about sensory processing including definitions, observable behaviors, and strategies for school and home for proprioception, vestibular, tactile, auditory, taste, and smell. Teacher collaboration and real-world application are presented.

The Benefits of Fine Motor Skills in Early Education
Presented by Jamie Cruz, MOT, OTR/L, Emily Dassow, BS, OTR/L


Jamie Cruz, MOT, OTR/LEmily Dassow, BS, OTR/L
Course: #32493Level: IntroductorySubject Area: Advancing children's physical and intellectual development1 Hour
  'Learning about the different ways of fine motor skills'   Read Reviews
Learn about fine motor skill development and its impact on school readiness. Use common preschool toys and supplies to build your repertoire of beneficial fine motor activities.

Introduction to Sensory Processing
Presented by Nicole Quint, Dr.OT, OTR/L


Nicole Quint, Dr.OT, OTR/L
Course: #31232Level: AdvancedSubject Area: Understanding principles of child development and learning1 Hour
  'Very informative'   Read Reviews
This course provides professionals with an introduction to sensory processing, emphasizing theoretical information, connection to behavior and performance, and practical considerations for how to refer children for specific sensory services such as sensory integration.

Basic Spanish for Childcare Professionals
Presented by Sara Pullen, DPT, MPH


Sara Pullen, DPT, MPH
Course: #31234Level: IntroductorySubject Area: Building productive relationships with families1 Hour
  'It was very easy to listen to, follow along, went at an easy pace'   Read Reviews
This course will focus on basic Spanish vocabulary, phrases and simple conversations for childcare professionals working in Spanish-speaking settings. The course will provide a basis for communication between childcare professionals, children and caregivers.

ACEs: Understanding Trauma in Children's Lives
Presented by Alison D. Peak, LCSW, IMH-E


Alison D. Peak, LCSW, IMH-E
Course: #31235Level: IntroductorySubject Area: Understanding principles of child development and learning3 Hours
  'The information was presented in a clear and concise manner'   Read Reviews
This course provides information regarding Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their impact on early childhood development, brain architecture, and health outcomes. After a brief overview of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study learners will take an in-depth look at the behavioral manifestations of children with high ACEs and ways to navigate those behaviors and needs in the classroom. Finally, learners will consider the impact of an educator’s own ACEs on their interactions in a classroom and the role of reflective capacity in addressing these ACEs. Please note: This course series is comprised of the following individual recordings: #31194, #31196, and #31202

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