Is your toddler ready to hold a crayon yet?
Babies are usually able to grasp crayons or pencils – as in physically pick them up – at around four or five months, but they aren’t able to handle them well enough to actually use them for artistic expression. Crayons are like any other toy; something to throw around and chew on, not scribble or draw with. This early grip is known as the crude palmar grasp, and it’s what babies use to grab things and pick them up. “Palmar” means using the palm and not the thumb, and “crude” here means that it’s not super fancy or 100% effective in holding onto things (Baby probably dropped a lot of toys back then, no?).
Baby‘s grasp has advanced a lot since the early days of grabbing at hair (palmar grasp!) and picking up cereal (pincer grasp!), and he might soon be ready to hold a crayon! The grasp he needs for this is called the palmar supinate grasp, and toddlers start to develop it between 12 and 15 months old. “Supinate” means the palm is facing up or forward. This is the typical grasp you think of when you picture a toddler using a writing utensil: he is making a fist around the crayon or pencil and holding it straight up to use it.
This isn’t the fanciest (or even a technically correct) way to hold a crayon, but it’s a stepping stone to the eventual grasp he will learn to hold a pencil when he is older. Baby will stick with this basic palmar supinate grasp until 2 or 3 years old, when he will transition to holding pencils and crayons with his fingers.
Even though Baby is within the age range of being ready to hold a crayon, remember that the range extends to 15 months, so it could still be a little while before he gets his crayon on. Using special thick crayons can help out a little and give Baby more space to grip the crayon.
Even when he does have the most beautiful palmar supinate grasp in the world, it’s possible that he won&;t be super interested in coloring or scribbling right off the bat. No worries, he has his entire life to learn to love scribbling tornadoes and stick figures in the margins of paper. His final pencil grip won’t come for a while, and trying to start holding a crayon “correctly” now can actually do more harm than good in the long run. Right now, just let Baby hold and grab things as he is interested in them. Happy scribbling!
- “Developmental Progression of the Grasp.” Columbia University. Columbia University. Accessed May 23, 2017. Web.
- “Occupational Therapy’s Notes to Parents.” Plano Independent School District. PISD Department of Special Education Services. Accessed May 23, 2017. http://k-12.pisd.edu/currinst/sped/OT/OTParentPoints2.htm