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The Quadrupod Grasp Myth: Is This Pencil Grasp Ok?

the quadrupod grasp

Pencil grasps can be confusing. If you read my review of the best hand writing apps, you’ll know that I prefer using a finger to learn letters before even getting started with a pencil. Our children go from holding their pencils like Roman spears as toddlers to somehow moving their pencils around the page like ballet dancers in elementary school. Even during typical development, this process from spear to ballet dancer looks messy. The quadruped grasp is a part of that mess.

What is the Quadrupod Grasp?

The tripod grasp is the most functional grasp, which we ultimately want to achieve. The quadrupod grasp is essentially the same thing as the tripod grasp, but the ring finger is used as well.

So, instead of a “tri” we have a “quad.”

Tripod Grasp

tripod grasp

Quadrupod Grasp

Very subtle, but if you look closely, you’ll see that my 4th finger is supporting the pen in the quadropod grasp, but not with the tripod grasp.

quadrupod grasp

Why Does the Quadrupod Grasp Seem Concerning?

There’s a tendency to get nervous when the quadruped grasp shows up. It almost looks like a typical grasp, but there’s something off about it. Many people worry that this is where their child’s grasp development will taper off and are not sure if this is where it should be.

But, never fear! The quadruped grasp is a completely normal part of the journey from spear to ballet dancer. It’s a natural step before developing a tripod grasp. It also can be better for little hands that need to use 4 fingers instead of 3 to stabilize their pencil. 

Is the Quadrupod Grasp Functional and Efficient?

Yes and no.

In order to understand why, let’s talk about what makes a grasp functional and efficient in the first place.

A functional and efficient grasp:

  • Stabilizes the pencil on 3 sides

–this lets the child move the pencil with more precision, using the small muscles in the hand and fingers

  • They’re dynamic, which means they use movement of the fingers and hand instead of the wrist or arm.

–when we see toddlers color, they often turn it into a full-body experience. Instead of moving their hands to move their pencils, they keep their wrists firm and then use their arms to direct the movement of the pencil.

  • They’re not exhausting

–a lot of this has to do with the dynamic nature of them. It’s exhausting to move your entire arm when writing. After only a short time, you’d need to take a break. Handwriting shouldn’t be an extreme sport, so we often aim for less tiring, efficient grasps. 

The Static Quadrupod Grasp and the Dynamic Quadrupod Grasp

If we were in the business of ranking grasps, we’d put the dynamic quadrupod grasp above the static quadrupod grasp.

As we discussed above, a dynamic grasp relies more on finger movement than it does wrist or arm movement. This makes it more efficient and overall less exhausting for your child.

While the dynamic grasp is “better,” a static quadruped grasp is no reason to panic. Remember that the quadrupod grasp is a stopping point on the journey towards a functional grasp.

Typically, a dynamic tripod grasp is the goal, which is commonly achieved by kindergarten. It has been found that 92% of children use a functional grasp, which should give you comfort in knowing that less functional grasps typically develop into more functional grasps down the road.

Help! My Child’s Grasp is Still Dysfunctional and Inefficient

Even though it may feel like it at times, know that you’re never an island. If you’re worried about your child’s grasp, reach out to your child’s teacher or occupational therapist. Whether there is reason to worry or not, a professional can help you determine what’s most appropriate to helping your child develop their skills in a productive way.

If you want to bring in some technology reinforcements, I’ve written a post about some of the great handwriting apps for kids that can help them learn and develop their handwriting.

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