Many parents have written to me that their child’s pencil grip is not proper. How to improve the pencil grasp? When we say the child is not having proper pencil grip, we need to first understand the reason for that. There could be many reasons like fine motor skills are not developed, the child is not interested in writing, child has developmental delay, child was not guided how to hold the pencil, to name a few. Once we have identified the reason, it is easier to work upon and help the child. In case, the child has developmental delay, a consultation with a professional may be recommended.
As a preschool teacher and parent, I have seen children holding the pencil in many different ways. Once the child gets comfortable with a particular way of holding the pencil, it becomes difficult to modify it later. Hence, it is important to help the child to have a proper pencil grasp at the earliest. When the child starts to hold a crayon or any writing material, guide the child with the right pincer grip.
So, what is the right grip for holding a pencil?
Basically, holding the pencil with the thumb, index finger, middle finger and other two fingers folding inside the palm is considered the best way of holding a pen/pencil. While holding the pencil three fingers resemble a tripod hence it is called the Tripod Grip.
Now, let’s see how we can help the child to form a proper pencil grip or improve the pencil grip.
1. Fine motor skills:
The most important aspect of holding the pencil is the development of fine motor skills. From the early age (as early as 10 months) to the age of 3 years, the child should be given lots of Fine Motor activities. In case the child’s fine motors are not well developed, it will be difficult for the child to hold and write in a proper manner. The child may start holding the pencil with four fingers or all the fingers, with his/her palm or any other way (refer pic.1). Child may hold the pencil too soft/loose that when he/she will write the letters will be too light to see.
So, it is important to work on fine motor skills and writing mechanics before focusing on the writing process. There are many DIY activities which can help the child to improve his/her fine motor skills.
My video links for Fine Motor activities at home:
2. Hand Exercise:
In case your child is above 4 years, already writing with improper pencil grip and you find his/her fingers are not strong enough for a proper grip then I would suggest along with fine motor activities consider a few hand/fingers exercises.
a) Place the hand on a table or any flat surface and ask the child to lift one finger at a time without moving other fingers. Hold the finger in the air for 2- 3 seconds. Repeat this with all the five fingers.
b) Place the hand on the table or any flat surface with the palm facing upward. Now, ask the child to press the tip of the index finger to the tip of the thumb (like a pinch). Hold this for 2-3 seconds without moving other fingers. Repeat this with other fingers as well.
4. Using small writing materials:
Writing with a smaller pencil or colouring with small crayons helps the child to hold it with a tripod grip. As the pencil/crayon is not big enough for the child to use his/her palm or gripping with thumb or all the fingers, naturally the child has to hold it with a tripod grip. It may be a little uncomfortable in the beginning, however, have patience and motivate the child to practice this way.
5. Writing on vertical surface:
Writing on the vertical surface helps to build strength in a child’s hand, arm and shoulders.
- White board/ Easels
- Chart/paper stuck on the wall
6. Pencil Grip: Along with fine motor activities, you can try the pencil grips as well. I have also used this for my son to improve his grip. I would recommend not using it as your first and only option to modify/improve the pencil grip.
When you feel the child has improved and you take him/her off the pencil grip, the child may go back to the previous grip, hence keep reminding him/her to maintain the tripod grip.
Having a proper pencil grip is important and that can be developed with constant supervision and reinforcement. It becomes challenging at times for parents and teachers to modify the improper pencil grip and it equally confusing and stressing for the child as well. Hence, if the child is guided from the beginning, the process of writing with appropriate grip will be much smoother.
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