Every child develops at different rates. However, there are certain milestones that let you know your child is developing at a healthy rate and is on the path toward gaining much-needed skills to help them succeed in the future.
One of these skills is the digital pronate grasp.
The digital pronate grasp is the grasp that a toddler between the ages of two to three uses to hold a pencil, pen, crayon, or other writing tools.
Children begin to use this type of grasp after the stage of using the palmar supinate grasp and before the static tripod grasp, which is closer to what the writing style of an adult is.
The digital pronate grasp is a type of fine motor skill that should develop in children around the ages of 2 to 3.
This is just an estimate and is the estimated age range a child should be able to grasp onto a writing utensil using this type of grasp.
However, all children are different, so anything before or a little after this age range shouldn’t be much of a concern.
A fine motor skill is any type of skill that requires the use of the smaller bones and muscles within the hands, feet, or other parts of the body.
Fine motor skills are incredibly important to help in the development of:
- Musical activities
- Other artistry
In addition, today’s modern world also requires the use of fine motor schools to complete other activities such as texting, typing on a computer, and even driving.
As such, it’s important to keep an eye out for the development of fine motor skills, including the digital pronate grasp, as your child develops.
Fine motor skills are also related to gross motor skills. These are skills that use larger muscle groups, such as the entirety of the arms and legs.
When a child develops the digital pronate grasp, they might still be using gross motor skills, such as moving their arms up and down when drawing as opposed to only using their wrists or fingers.
This is also quite normal behavior, and parents should understand that as a child develops their fine motor skills, they are also developing their gross motor skills.
Both fine motor skills and gross motor skills will continue to be defined as a child gets older.
As mentioned before, a digital pronate grasp looks similar to a type of grasp an adult uses to take hold of a pencil, but with some differences.
It can be better understood when every word in the term is broken down. For instance:
- Digital means it uses fingers; the scientific term for fingers or the toes is “digits.” Thus, you know a digital pronate grasp is referring to the fingers of a child.
- Pronate refers to the position of the palm. To remember it easily, think of the term “prone.” When someone is playing dead in the water, they are prone and are facing downwards instead of upwards. Similarly, when a child’s hand is pronated, his or her palms are facing downward while the back of their hand faces upward.
- Grasp is exactly what it means; it is a hard grasping of a pencil or other writing utensil, as opposed to holding it gently.
Putting all these terms together can help you get a sense of what a digital pronate grasp is. Imagine holding a heavy spoon to eat cereal with.
Instead of holding it gently like a pencil, you might be holding it in a digital pronate grasp, where the palm is facing downward and you’re using your entire wrist to scoop up cereal and enjoy it.
Another type of example is riding a bike. The palms will be facing downward with your thumb facing inwardly, so you’re better prepared to press on the bike brakes, while the back of the hand is facing upward.
This is the digital pronate grasp, and it is used by children when writing, only vertically.
When used vertically, it almost looks as if the hand of a child is giving a thumbs down. Indeed, with the digital pronate grasp in a vertical position, the thumbs end up pointing downward while the pinky is closest to the sky.
As a parent, it’s critical to continue to monitor your child for their growth stages, including the stages where they begin to develop fine motor skills.
If your child has not begun to use the digital pronate grasp, they might be using another skill known as the palmar supinate grasp.
This is, in essence, grasping a pencil or pen with the fist.
This type of grasp uses much more muscle movement and gross motor skills than the digital pronate grasp does.
In addition, a child usually keeps the hand in a balled-up fist using this grasp.
On the other hand, a child might extend their index finger while using the digital pronate grasp.
After your child develops the ability to use the digital pronate grasp, they will then move on toward the static tripod grasp, which is where the tips of the middle and index finger along with the thumb hold the pencil steady.
Unlike more mature forms of grasping, a child will still use their wrist and forearm to draw while using the static tripod grasp.
This grasp should be used around the age of three and a half to four, and it’s often the transition toward better writing techniques after the digital pronate grasp.
If your child is still using the digital pronate grasp when they should be using the static tripod, this could be an issue you need to address with your primary care physician or an occupational therapist.
If your child does not seem to use the digital pronate grasp between the ages of two to three years old and continues to use the palmar supinate or another type of grass, or if they continue to use the digital pronate grasp after the age of three and a half, it’s best to talk to your doctor for help.
Your doctor can refer you to an occupational therapist, who is trained in helping people, including children, learn new motor skills and improve their quality of life.
When it comes to the development of motor skills, the sooner you start your child on an occupational therapy program, the better their outlook will be on developing the skills they need to function normally and without help.
This is known as “early intervention,” and is considered a critical part of recovery and development.
Because children’s brains are developing at a rapid rate during the first few years of life, getting them help from an occupational therapist so they can learn the appropriate grasp early on can be life-changing.
There are other things you can do to help your child develop the digital pronate grasp.
Here are some activities you can do to help improve your child’s fine motor skills:
1. Playing with slime or play dough. This is one of the most fun and most effective skills to help your child. Not only is it fun, but your child will get to understand what different textures feel like and how to build using different colored playdough, and they can develop their fine motor skills by creating unique structures.
2. Encourage them to write more often. Writing is an excellent way to develop language skills and communication. By encouraging your child to write, even if it’s simple words, you’re allowing them to express themselves early on. If your child cannot write yet, scribbling is also a fun way to get them to write. In fact, children between the ages of 3 and 4 want to learn how to write and mimic adults and will attempt to scribble to do so.
3. Get their help cooking. Cooking is one of the best habits to teach your children, so they can grow up healthy and know just how important it is to eat home-cooked and healthy meals. Everything from using a spoon to scoop sprinkles, to using a spatula to layering on frosting, and also using pinches of salt to flavor food can all help your child develop fine motor skills. Make sure your child only cooks with a watchful adult present.
4. Help them cut coupons. Whether it’s coupons, pictures for a collage, or another type of activity, having your child use child-friendly scissors to cut out shapes is also a great way to teach them fine motor skills. Cutting out objects also uses thinking skills, and hand-eye coordination, and can help get your child’s creative juices flowing.
5. Give them smaller crayons as they get better. Jumbo crayons and pencils are greater starter tools to help your child develop their ability to draw and write. Try swapping them out for smaller, more fine crayons and pencils are your child’s skills begin to develop. This can be challenging, but it’s a great stepping stone to help your child develop their fine motor skills and move toward a better grasp after using the digital pronate grasp.
You might be wondering why it’s so important to measure your child’s development through the digital pronate grasp.
After all, with the advent of technology, your child might be able to work with an iPad but not write. Is it really such a big deal?
According to developmental experts, yes! In fact, researchers consider writing and fine motor skills to be the most essential form of communication, and as such, the development of writing techniques cannot be underestimated.
In addition, if a child is proficient at handwriting, there is also evidence that is linked to better academic achievement later on in life.
As adults, we might not remember the first time we held a pencil, or even recognize the importance of it.
On the contrary, the digital pronate grasp and other types of grasps are key indicators of fine motor skills development and are critical to look out for during a child’s developmental years.
Talk to your doctor for more information about the digital pronate grasp, and whether or not your child is hitting all the milestones they can.
If they don’t have this grasp, there are plenty of therapies and activities you can do to help them improve their fine motor skills.