When Should Your Child Use a Stylus on an iPad?

Earlier I wrote a post on the App Crayon stylus to develop pencil grasp in preschoolers.  But should all preschoolers and even toddlers use a stylus?  The issue is more complicated than you might think.

The App Crayon is still my favorite stylus for older toddlers.  The triangular shape and the boldly colored, non-slip grasping surface use tactile and visual cues to tell your child where to place their fingertips.  It is entirely plastic, not metal, and the tip is strong (but not indestructible).  Thinner metal shafts with an unprotected opposite end can be dangerous to your tablet or your toddler if used incorrectly.  And as always, children who would even consider chewing on the rubber tip aren’t encouraged to use any stylus.

If your child is not ready or nearly ready to use a mature pencil grasp, then using any stylus without lots of support and training could actually slow down their development of the control for handwriting.  A stylus requires a level of force and grading (controlled pressure) of force that demands more of a child, not less.  If the do not have that ability, then they will usually press harder to tap or drag an icon, and in the process their grasp will deteriorate to a fist.  Tablets are so enticing that being unable to play on an app after one or two attempts will make toddlers very frustrated.  This could lead to less participation and effort to achieve a mature grasp, not more.  If it isn’t fun then most children will reject it.

A child who can use either a palmar pronate (thumb and fingertips pointed down when holding a crayon) or a quadrupod grasp (thumb on one side and four fingers on other side of the shaft of the crayon) is demonstrating some emerging hand control, and a child who is trying to use three fingers to hold a crayon is probably completely ready to build skill and control with a stylus.

You can introduce a stylus and see amazing growth in your child’s hand control, but introduce it when his pencil grasping skills are just about to blossom!

By Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist, licensed massage therapist, and certified CBT-i sleep coach in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment. It has been a joy to help people of all ages improve their ability to grow and thrive! Occupational therapists are focused on enhancing a client's functioning in everyday life. We are practical healthcare providers, interested in teaching, adapting actions and environments, and building a client's useful skills for living their best life, regardless of their challenges. I am the author of five books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training the Autistic Child". I lecture on many subjects, including sleep, trauma, and development. Contact me to learn more about how I can help you achieve YOUR goals!

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