Teaching Pencil Grip

March 15, 2014

Have you ever wondered how we teach pencil grip?  


If you observe children writing, you will notice a wide variety of pencil grips, many of them awkward. Children may hold the pencil with too many fingers or place their thumbs on top of fingers, or their fingers on top of thumbs. Some of these grips cause fatigue, cramping, and even pain, making writing difficult. This problem can be prevented by giving children early activities and instruction to develop efficient, comfortable pencil grips. The foundation starts with general upper body strength and fine motor skill activities.


Babies in high chairs naturally develop fine motor skills by picking up finger foods such as raisins. Active play on monkey bars and outside games encourage upper body strength and large motor skills. Toys that require children to use their hands to pull apart, put together, and snap help develop eye-hand coordination and strength.


Children are ready to be taught how to hold the crayon as soon as they want to scribble and color with it, not throw it or eat it! Start with crayons rather than pencils and show children how to position their fingers properly. Start with small bits of crayon because children naturally pick up the pieces correctly, just like they pick up raisins. For children’s small hands, we fink using broken crayons works best. Compare the size of a child’s hand to yours. Have you ever used a big, heavy novelty pen or a fat primary pencil? They’re awkward and heavy. It’s the same for children. Writing tools should suit the child’s hand size.


Adult role modeling is as important as the instrument. The adult should use a correct grip and gently help children to do the same, patiently helping them place their fingers correctly.


The optimal pencil grip is called a tripod grip: The thumb, index and middle fingers support the pencil; and the last two fingers are bent into the palm. An alternative hold is the quadrapod grip: The thumb, index, middle and ring fingers hold the pencil; and the little finger is bent into the palm. With both thetripod and quadrapod grip, the fingers are able to move, which is the basic function crucial to handwriting development.


Children love to please teachers and parents. If teachers and parents demonstrate and reinforce appropriate grip, then students will actively try to master it. 


Things to think about:

1) Good crayon and pencil grips should be actively and regularly taught.

2) Teach grips as soon as age 4 or whenever crayons are introduced.

3) Grips become automatic or habitual with repetition. 


You can easily promote good crayon/pencil grips:

1) Encourage self-feeding for toddlers to develop skill using the pincer grip.

2) Start early writing/drawing with small broken pieces of chalk or crayon.

3) Encourage finger use and finger awareness with gestures, signs, and finger-plays.

4) Teach correct crayon grip with the Crayon Song.




Tune: “Open and Shut Them”

Pick up a crayon, Pick up a crayon, This is easy to do

Pick up a crayon, Pick up a crayon, I just tell my fi ngers what to do

My thumb is bent, Pointer points to the tip, Tall Man uses his side

I tuck the last two fi ngers in, And take them for a ride

Now I’m holding it just right, But not too tight, Every fi nger knows what to do

And now I have a big surprise, A big surprise for you

Let’s drop ’em and do it again

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