The school year is well underway, your three- to six-year-old is doing a lot of coloring or writing at school, and you might be wondering what kind of stocking stuffer or small gift you can get to help with their pencil grasp this holiday season.
Well, I’ve got some ideas for you!
First, before you go scouring the shelves of Target or searching on Amazon, make sure you know what is developmentally expected and realistic for your child’s age as it relates to pencil grasp. A three-year-old is not expected to have the same pencil grasp as a five- or six-year-old. Take a look at my post “The Developmental Progression of Pencil Grasp” to see if your child is on track with their fine motor development.
Second, once you have a visual of what pencil grasp should look like for your child’s age, make sure you understand one of the most important components of hand development that affects your child’s pencil grasp — “dissociation” (or “separation”) of the two sides of the hand.
This means the thumb-side of the hand (“radial” side = thumb, index, and middle fingers) can operate separately from the pinky-side of the hand (“ulnar” side = ring and pinky fingers). The thumb-side becomes the “worker side” of the hand to operate with skill and precision while pinching, grasping, and using tools. The pinky-side becomes the “stabilizer side” of the hand; those last two fingers curl themselves up and get tucked into the palm for stability during activities like peeling stickers, spinning a top, winding up a wind-up toy, or coloring with a crayon. In typical hand development, dissociation of the two sides of the hand begins to emerge after about two years of age.
Read my post on dissociation of the two sides of the hand to know what to look for when observing your child’s current hand skills. And if you want to learn a little occupational therapy “trick” for helping kids learn to tuck that pinky and ring finger into the palm while grasping a pencil with the other fingers, CLICK HERE.
In my work with three- to six-year-olds who have fine motor delays, one thing I consistently see is this lack of dissociation between the left and right sides of the hand. It’s hard to appropriately hold and write with a pencil when you can’t get each finger to do it’s job! That’s why, this year, each and every toy in this gift guide supports the development of dissociation of the two sides of the hand!
Lastly, keep in mind that there are many factors other than just grasp that play into a child’s ability to appropriately work with a crayon or pencil. It’s not just about perfect grasp! Read my post “Five Things to Keep in Mind When Working on Fine Motor Skills“ to learn more about how to support your child’s fine motor development from a big picture perspective.
All of the gift ideas included in this post relate directly to the development of hand skills, particularly the dissociation of the two sides of the hand. They have been specifically selected for their ability to promote strengthening and skills needed for developing a mature grasp. However, this is not a guarantee that playing with these toys will magically make everything better! This is just one small part of the very large puzzle of fine motor development. Also, please be sure to keep safety in mind when selecting toys for younger children that may have smaller parts. You as the grown-up will need to determine what is safe and appropriate for the kid(s) you have in mind.
Okay, on to the gift ideas! Click on any product image below to be taken to its corresponding page on Amazon. This post contains affiliate links for your convenience (see full disclosure here).
10 STOCKING STUFFERS TO HELP YOUR CHILD’S PENCIL GRASP
1. Wind-up toys
Wind-up toys that flip
Wind-up toys that drive and walk
2. Spinning Tops
3. Travel-size wind-up fishing game
4. Mini Tong Games
5. Munchy Ball (from my OT pal Tonya over at Therapy Fun Zone!)
6. Pop Beads
8. Travel Size Etch-a-Sketch
9. Crayon Rocks
And a bonus one that’s pretty cool!: Stretchy Cheese
And for resources you can (legally) download to your computer or print for your own use, check out these helpful e-books from OT Mom Learning Activities, packed with practical, ready-to-use activity ideas:
OT Mom’s Fine Motor Bundle (Discounted price on Fine Motor Activities plus Scissor Skills Activities plus FREE Bonus Cutting Template)
Want access to all of OT Mom’s e-books? Check out her Mega Motor Bundle which includes all of her e-books at a discounted price!