Start Teaching Pencil Grasp Early With Fingertip Feeding Games

ice cube trays as serving containers for snacks
ice cube trays as serving containers for snacks

Many preschoolers have difficulty holding a pencil.  Some teachers and occupational therapists don’t even suggest pencil use until kindergarten.  And the developmental progression is slowing down to reflect the limited amount of time children under 3 are getting to refine their pinch and manipulation skills that create the foundation of pencil grasp.  Standardized testing may even have to be altered to reflect the limited ability of young children to use their hands in a skilled manner.  Tapping a tablet or pressing a button on a toy doesn’t count as skilled.  Refined finger control really starts the moment they reach out for a rattle and it never ends.  Try using this easy and fun self-feeding set-up to build finger control way before your child ever reaches for a pencil.

This is an old-school game that kids from 1-4 really enjoy.  Use an ice cube tray to serve small safe bits of food in a tapas-style manner.  That means no whole grapes, large slices of hot dogs, or any other food that is a known choking hazard.  Try dry cereal and small pieces of fruit or cooked vegetables.  I recently found this tray that had great colored spaces that were quite small.  When your child fishes out a single piece of food, they will naturally find that using just their thumb and index finger make the most sense.  This is certainly an improvement over constantly telling a child how you want them to do the task.  The container does that for you.

….Except for one of my more clever clients, whose dad said it took the 14 month old only a week to realize that if he dumped the entire thing onto his high chair tray, it became very easy indeed to scoop his food up with a fist!

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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