Something that our occupational therapists work on a lot with our little kiddos is proper pencil grasp – the way they hold and manipulate a pencil, crayon or maker as they write or draw.
What might seem sort of a small skill is, in the big picture, a very important foundational skill for young children. Having a correct pencil grasp falls under the umbrella of fine motor skills and when a child struggles with holding a pencil properly, it can be part of a larger set of challenges.
When kiddos are able to hold a pencil or crayon correctly, it supports their learning in so many ways! They will feel so confident and will be better able to print their letters and numbers at school and at home.
The most effective way to hold a pencil is a tripod grasp – the pencil is held with the index finger and thumb with the middle finger supporting it.
We’ve got a few easy ways to help your child master a proper pencil grasp!
6 Ways To Support Proper Pencil Grasp
1. Use golf size pencils
When you use a smaller sized pencil (golf pencils are perfect!) it forces kiddos to grasp closer to the tip of the pencil and allow them more control. Once they’ve built up those fine motor muscles, transitioning to a larger pencil is easy.
2. Practice pencil grasp with broken crayons
Just like using a small pencil, saving broken crayons to help practice proper grip is an easy (and eco friendly!) way to help build the proper pencil grip. Encourage kids to color and draw with smaller crayons while maintaining that tripod grasp.
3. Use a makeup sponge as a reminder
Place a small makeup sponge between the 4th and 5th finger (ring and pinkie). While those fingers hold the sponge, the other three (pointer, middle and thumb) can be used to hold the pencil in the correct position.
Engaging the fingers your child doesn’t need will help them focus on the 3 fingers that they use for a correct pencil grasp.
4. Give them easy reminders
Using a washable marker or pen, place a small dot on the tip of the thumb, index and middle finger to help kiddos remember which fingers they should use to hold their pencil.
As they are writing, ask them to pause and make sure the fingers with the dots are the ones they are using to hold their pencil.
5. Create your own pencil grip
Using a rubber band or piece of thick masking tape, wrap the area of the pencil your child should be grasping. This gives them a visual cue, and also some tactile input, to remind them where and how they should hold their pencil.
6. Play with a purpose and turn practice into a game!
Using a tweezers or chopsticks – anything that mimics a pencil grip – have kiddos fill cups or small bowls with various items they pick up. See how quickly they can fill a bowl with Cheerios or how many small Lego pieces they can put into a cup in 1 min using just the tools and a proper tripod grasp.
It’s also a great idea to have kids work their fine motor skills in other ways to help build the muscles they need to perfect their pencil grip.
- Squeezing, pinching and manipulation clay or Play-Doh
- Crumpling small piece of paper to toss into a bowl
- Play games with small pieces like Connect Four, Light Bright or Legos
- Trace letters, numbers and shapes in various sizes
- Use clothes pins that squeeze and attach them to a long piece of fabric
Any activity that uses those small muscle movements will help develop stronger fine motor skills overall. Get creative and see how you can do some work while having fun!
There are also lots of different accessories that you can purchase to help your child perfect their pencil grasp. We recommend these soft, silicone grips that slide easily onto pencils and pens. They will allow kiddos to comfortably place their fingers in the ideal hold.
If you’re ready for more support, or just have questions about your child’s fine motor skills, reach out and let’s see how Beyond Speech can help! We have amazing occupational therapists who will partner with you in helping your child meet goals and face challenges head on!