Tripod grasp, as the name suggests, refers to a grip of three fingers. A tripod functions on three stands, which in this case comprises the three fingers i.e. thumb, index, and middle finger; while the object can be a pencil or crayon.
This grasp is also important for fastening buttons, holding small objects, or holding cutlery. It’s a functional grasp which accelerates the learning and writing skill of a child. There are various kinds of tripod grasp techniques i.e. dynamic tripod grasp, static, lateral, etc.
What is Static Tripod Grasp?
Static Tripod Grasp is a preschool fundamental skill that can be developed between the age of 3 to 4 years. In this tripod grasp, the fingers hold the pencil in a pinching manner and the remaining fingers provide the required support. Whilst the grasp may look similar to other tripod grasps, the key difference with the static grasp is that the whole arm is moved instead of using a wrist motion.
In this way, it is a more efficient pencil grasp compared to another immature pencil grasp in younger children, like a fisted grasp or digital pronate grasp.
A more superior or efficient pencil grasp enhances control and reduces pain and fatigue when it comes to writing.
Every child is different. Each one belongs to a different age group and develops the grasping skill according to their mental or physical growth. The efficiency of this grasping skill is important to hold a pencil properly and to achieve good handwriting.
The term “static” refers to how a child moves the writing utensils. In this grasp, they use their entire wrist and forearm to move the pencil instead of fingers.
The fingers remain static, this includes the middle and ring fingers. Although the child is using a tripod pencil grasp, the child is still developing finger muscle strength to use finger movements rather than whole arm movements.
The next stage of pencil grasp development from static tripod grasp is dynamic tripod grasp. This is a more mature grasp which you typically don’t see in a young child.
Difference between static and dynamic tripod grasp
From Static Towards Dynamic
With Static Tripod Grasps, a child holds the pencil or writing utensils with the thumb, index, and middle fingers. But when they write, the fingertips remain static. It is an immature grasp in comparison to the dynamic variant.
It’s all about the matter of finger strength that the child has. Once the child has more developed finger muscles, then they can have improved control over their writing utensil and other motor activities.
During this stage, at the age of 4 to 6, children start gripping more items and learn about how fingers work over different objects.
Increased fine motor activities that improve finger strength and finger dexterity, such as using tongs, tweezers, and scissors, can help gradually mature their grasp from static to dynamic.
Static Tripod Grasp: Use of arm and wrist to write
Static tripod grasp is where the child has no finger movements and instead, uses their arm and wrists to write. In this case, the child’s pencil grasp is less efficient and the child can become more tired as they are using their bigger arm muscles to help control the writing utensil.
There is also less accuracy in writing or coloring as the arms and wrists are used to move the writing utensils across the paper. This causes faster restlessness and less endurance.
When the whole arm is involved in the movement, the larger muscles perform different activities than they are supposed to do usually. Larger muscles are generally required to be activated to provide support to the hand.
But in the static grasp technique, due to the lack of stabilization, skill and control are also compromised.
Static Tripod Grasp: Fine Motor Skills
Tripod grasps are needed for the development of fine motor skills. For children’s daily activities, fine motor skills play a very essential role in increasing finger dexterity and in-hand manipulation skills.
These skills require writing, grasping lightweight objects, opening lunch boxes, etc.
Young children need to develop the correct tripod grasp pattern so they can hold objects with only three fingers. As they move from static to dynamic grasp, they develop finger movement and improved coordination.
Dynamic Tripod Grasp: Energy Efficiency
Dynamic tripod grasp is where the child uses their finger muscles to control the pencil, rather than their forearm and upper arm.
The use of the thumb, index, and middle finger allows them to have good pencil control. Additionally, this allows the remaining two fingers (e.g. ring and pinky fingers) to provide stabilization to the palm and support the hand.
Using a dynamic rather than a static grasp or other immature pencil grasps can help reduce energy expenditure and improve energy efficiency. This means that children can write for longer periods without getting tired.
Proper grasping can increase the possibilities of generating good quality content with legible writing.
At what age do you expect your child to use Static Tripod Grasp?
But tripod grasp usually comes into the picture after 3 to 4 years. During their development stage, a child begins to learn grasp patterns at a very early age. The proper foundation of gripping objects needs the involvement of the shoulder and arm. At the tender age of one month, children generally get accustomed to grasping.
Activities to Help Your Child Improve Their Grasp
If your child is aged 3 or 4 years old but still using immature pencil grasp like using all their fingers to hold objects, then it is important for them to start developing a tripod grasp so they start to learn to use their thumb, index finger, and middle finger together.
Here are some activities that can help your child develop this pencil grip:
- Paint or write letters or numbers using sponges cut into 2-3cm pieces
- Color or write using broken crayons and pencils. They need to be small enough for your child to hold using a tripod grasp
- Playing tong games like Avalanche Fruit Stand or Operation
- Wheelbarrow walking on their hands
- Loosen and tighten a nut-bolt
- Playing board games with small manipulatives like Trouble, Snakes and Ladder, Monopoly
- Threading with small beads
At a glance
We can summarize this with one important piece of advice from occupational therapists. As they say, you should meet your child at the place they want to be and support their growth from that area only.
They should never feel pressured or be told to do something that they are not ready for, this is as true for their pencil grasp as it is for their toileting milestones.
In saying this, if your child is aged between 3 to 4, they should have developed a tripod grasp.
If your child has not yet developed a tripod grasp, then some of the above activities can help your child develop a static tripod grasp so they can continue to develop their fine motor skills required for everyday activities.
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