The Quadrupod Grasp Myth: Is This Pencil Grasp Ok?

the quadrupod grasp

Pencil grasps can be confusing. 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.

Otherwise know as the quadrupod grip, think about what the word “grip” means. Obviously, we all know what it means to grip something. With “quad” meaning 4 and “tri” meaning 3, a quadrupod grip implies that we’re using 4 fingers to grip a pencil, while a tripod grip means we’re using 3. 

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 that’s ok.

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:

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

–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.

–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.

Think About What Your Kiddo is Using Their Pencil Grasp For

Do you remember those jumbo pencils from the 90s? If you were like me, you loved these pencils, but struggled to fill out an entire worksheet with one. The same goes for a golf pencil. While they’re convenient, they aren’t very practical. 

If your kiddo is struggling with writing, think about what they’re writing with and writing on. When we have the wrong tools, we have no choice but to change our pencil grips to accommodate.

There are also some great fun and effective handwriting apps that can help kiddos progress with their writing skills.

A study of 23-24 month olds found that these kids used a more mature grasp when using a crayon and an easel than a pencil and a table. Make sure that your child is using the right tools for their age and grasp development stage. If you aren’t sure, check with their teacher or occupational therapist.

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.

Also keep in mind that some kiddos will have their own unique pencil grasps and still be fully capable of functioning at a necessary level with no noticeable deficit. A study of 120 4th graders found that differing types of pencil grasp didn’t impact handwriting speed or legibility.

While you should always chat with a medical professional if you have any concerns about your child, a quardupod pencil grip may not be concern for panic unless you’re noticing impairment in writing skills.

18 thoughts on “The Quadrupod Grasp Myth: Is This Pencil Grasp Ok?”

  1. I’m a 23-year-old woman, college educated, who still uses a lateral quadrupod grip. My mom tried to train me out of it in grade school, but I never quite caught on. I definitely CAN write with a dynamic tripod grip with some focus, but I don’t prefer it by any means. I’ve been told I have excellent handwriting and I rarely experience discomfort from the way I write. Just thought I’d leave this here for anyone worried.

    1. I do as well, and my writing is beautiful but I can’t go for more than a couple of paragraphs without cramping. I’ve tried to teach myself a “correct” grip but I just end up frustrated. I’m not really sure where to go from here.

  2. Hello
    My 4 year old daughter uses a quadrupod grip, the teacher insists that she needs to improve, i have been trying to help her to move to a tripod grip. Is there any issues with the grip she has now? Will it affect her way of writing later, her speed or handwriting?

  3. I’m 70 and still using the dynamic quadrupod grip that I learned in elementary school was “wrong.” But I could never achieve a comfortable tripod grip.
    Throughout my life I’ve been complimented on my nice, beautiful, lovely, or neat handwriting, but a part of me always knew I held my pencil “wrong.” Thank you for helping me to understand that I’ve really been OK this whole time. Somewhere, sometime I suspect someone will find a genetic element to grips, much the same as our genes determine how we fold our arms and can (or can’t) curl our tongues.

    1. Definitely! Pencil grasps are as unique as people. They follow a certain path of development, but we all end up with our own unique quirks along the way. If it works for you, that’s what matters!

  4. I’m 18 and also using the dynamic quadrupod grip and I was about 15 years old when I realized that I have a different grip than the others, so I tried to practice the tripod grip but I find it a bit restricting for me when I write so I kept using the quadrupod grip because its more comfortable to use for me. I find writing in script easier than writing in print but my penmanship is actually nice, just not consistent because I tend to hold my pencil loosely because of my grip.

  5. Hi!

    I’m a 20-year-old undergraduate student here to report that I too am still using the dynamic quadrupodic grip. I was definitely a small child so I imagine this may play a role in how it developed. I also distinctly remember numerous occasions throughout my childhood where I attempted to self correct my grasp but I was never able to make the switch. This may be useful for some parents out there with children with ADHD. I think a big barrier to adjusting from quad to tri is that it is extremely challenging for us w ADHD to unlearn the way we write. Even as an adult (I know, just barely) I find that the focus of trying to readjust my grasp is extremely exhausting. It is not that I lack the physical coordination, rather it is mentally fatiguing. Diana highlights this well in this article, but I just want to re-enforce that if it works well for your child and does not cause them harm, it is ok!

    Remember: Your child’s neurodivergense is an asset, not a limitation!
    The standardization of curriculum in our school system’s makes this easy to forget.

  6. I think something may be wrong with my muscles or coordination or whatever, because I just can’t hold a pencil in a dynamic tripod way. It’s too unstable and doesn’t give me enough control. I need a lot of stability when I write, so I have to squeeze my pencil tightly from all sides. I don’t notice any problems with holding or handling other everyday things, but I really have a problem with holding a pencil correctly. Do you think I have some condition or is it just a bad habit that I can’t break?

  7. Thanks for sharing your experience, Katie! Our handwriting grips are more unique and personal than we all realize. And, yes! Assets, not limitations!! Love that.

  8. I’m 26 and still write with the quadruped grasp. I’m a graduate and currently working as a scientist. When I was younger my dad tried to correct me. I was able to write comfortably the tripod way but still preferred the quadruped way. I remember switching my grasps whenever my dad was around while doing homework because he would always yell at me for holding it wrong! I’m also a skilled sketched artist and I’ve always been told I had very nice handwriting. I think the only downside to the grasp is that the side of my middle finger will start hurting if I’ve been writing a lot. That’s when I would switch to the other tripod grasp.

  9. I’ve always used a quadrupod grasp and was never comfortable using a tripod grasp (I’m 30). I didn’t see anything in the article or the comments about a correlation to a certain dominant hand, but I’m left-handed and always filed my grasp under “weird things southpaws do to get by.” In any case it seems I’m wholly unprepared to teach these skills to my children, ha!

  10. I’m 39 and had no idea there were different types of pencil grips until today. I’ve always struggled with using a knife and fork and had to learn this again a few years ago. I’ve been an artist since I can remember and though my hand gets tired, that is mostly due to holding tools tightly. My crayons nearly always break! I get many compliments on my handwriting and teach art to children so having a lateral quadrupod grasp worked out well for me! How funny that I never had any idea.

  11. I’m 19 years old, and yeah, I too started off with the quadrupod grasp. But when I saw my peers writing so easily with the tripod grip, I wanted that too. So I changed it. At the time, I didn’t think it would be a big problem. But it did. Try as I might, I couldn’t make my handwriting as beautiful as it was before. I tried changing pens, paper. Nothing worked. Then I did the logical thing- tried to change back to my old quadrupod grasp. But now I found that it doesn’t work for me. Different fingers ached different times, and writing became torture. My grades suffered because of this.

    I’ve always felt unique because nobody else seems to have this problem. But no, this doesn’t make me feel special. I just want to get writing normal again. Can you please help?

    (Now I’m back to tripod. Still sucks. Thought you should know)

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