Sugar Aunts: Pencil Grasp Exercise for Thumb Wrap Grasp

Pencil Grasp Exercise for Thumb Wrap Grasp

Kids can use some pretty interesting grasps on pencils.  You can see the thumb squashed up against the pencil, the pointer finger wrapped around the pencil, or the thumb wrapped around the fingers.

Very often, the pencil grasp that a child is using is not one of stability and rather, is a demonstration of instability as weakness in the muscles of the hand is compensating during handwriting. This thumb wrap pencil grasp exercise is an easy one to put together and one that will help kids gain strength in the muscles that make up a functional grasp.  Read on to find out how to work the muscles of the hand to improve the "dreaded" thumb wrap grasp!



Pencil grasp exercise to work on an open web space and flexed thumb needed to remedy the thumb wrap grasp.



*Note* I am one who takes pencil grasps in stride.  So, when I say "dreaded" thumb wrap grasp, I am not completely serious in that this grasp is dreadful or something to fear.  Many (many) of us have unique and very functional pencil grasps.  The issue is when a quirky grip on the pencil becomes a cause for illegibility, fatigue, joint strain, or other concern.  In those cases, a grasp should be addressed. 

I've had a few questions from readers about the thumb wrap grasp.  It seems like this pencil grasp is becoming more prominent in classrooms. The thumb wrap grasp is what you see when you the end of the thumb is wrapped around the pointer finger.  While it's not a completely horrible pencil grasp, it isn't a great grasp for speed and efficiency in writing.


Pencil grasp exercise to work on an open web space and flexed thumb needed to remedy the thumb wrap grasp.

What is happening when a child uses the Thumb Wrap Grasp?

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The tip of the thumb bends over the pencil and pointer finger, providing stability to the grasp.  Instead of using the opposition muscle of the thumb to grasp the pencil, the child is using the adductor muscle.  The thumb wrap grasp provides stability but it does not allow for quick pencil movements.  As a child is required to write faster to take notes, the legibility of their handwriting will be sacrificed. Rather than moving the pencil with the tips of their thumb and index finger, the child is manipulating pencil motions with their wrist and forearm.

In order to improve this grasp, a child needs to strengthen the opposition muscle, Opponens Pollicis, along with Flexor Pollicis Longus to bend the tip of the thumb or the Interphalnageal Joint (IP Joint) of the thumb. Strengthening the intrinsic muscles along with addressing an open web space will improve IP flexion in pencil grasp. 


Pencil grasp exercise to work on an open web space and flexed thumb needed to remedy the thumb wrap grasp.

Exercise to Work on a Thumb Wrap Grasp

Pencil grasp exercise to work on an open web space and flexed thumb needed to remedy the thumb wrap grasp.

This is such an easy activity.  Use store bought Play Dough or homemade sensory dough.  Press flower beads into the play dough with a bent thumb. Encourage your child to press the flowers into the dough using a their their thumb in a bent position on the edge of the flowers.  This is important, because it works the muscles needed to oppose with an open web space and flex the tip of the thumb.  This is the mobility needed to advance the pencil fluently.  These flower beads are perfect for this exercise because of the length of the flower that can press into the Play Dough.


Pencil grasp exercise to work on an open web space and flexed thumb needed to remedy the thumb wrap grasp.

Next, ask your child to pull out all of the flower beads by using the tips of their pointer finger and the tip of the thumb, while ensuring that your child maintains a slightly flexed (bent) thumb IP joint.

Encourage learning and playful math by counting as your child pulls out the flowers.  If your kiddo is like my preschooler, those flower beads will be hidden pretty far into the play dough.  The search and find is a great overall hand exercise and a fun math activity as you add up the beads!

ONE Simple Trick to Help Kids With Their Pencil Grasp

SO? How can you use this info to help kids with their pencil grasp? Make them aware of that little bent thumb joint.  Point it out as they are doing the play dough activity and then again when they are holding a pencil.  Remind them of that bent knuckle when they write.  Too much for your kiddo?  Don't fret. I have a super secret OT trick coming your way very soon!  Stay tuned! 

This pencil grasp exercise will help with many kids that need to work on an open web space, not just the thumb wrap grasp.  Try it and let me know how it goes!


Letter Formation with Play Dough from Still Playing School
Play Dough and Alphabet Beads from Mom Inspired Life
Playdough Scene Creation from Powerful Mothering
Simple tools for making words with play dough from The Kindergarten Connection
Letter Sound Activity with Play Dough Tools from Raising Little Superheroes
Phases of the Moon from Edventures with Kids
Roll and Build a Play Dough Spud from School Time Snippets

Pencil grasp exercise to work on an open web space and flexed thumb needed to remedy the thumb wrap grasp.

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3 comments :

  1. What a great idea! I wish I had seen this when my kiddos were younger. Thanks for sharing! :)

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  2. Great idea. I help a lot of children with a thumb wrap grasp. I have one myself so it's tricky to convince the children they need to change theirs! On the plus side the thumb wrap grasp is very good for drawing and sketching for little artists because it gives you a broader range of movements in using the wrist as the thumb doesn't limit the movement so much.

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  3. There are so many great ideas on your page! Thank you so much for sharing the information!

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