“Help! How can I help my child with pencil grip?”
Pencil grip can be one of the trickiest habits to correct.
For one reason, children do not always want to be helped with pencil grip.
Go figure. We are teaching children to be independent thinkers and then swooping in to correct everything.
My three-year-old is full of independence and does not want mom to rearrange his marker. GASP! Doesn’t he know I have a degree in education?!
So what do I do? I find subtle ways to have him practice to develop his pencil grip. These activities suggest he rearrange his grip to create lines and movements to complete the task.
Here’s how to help your child with pencil grip.
Let’s talk with an expert on pencil grip
Priscila from Playing with Chanel is a pediatric Occupational Therapist in California. She is my ultimate go-to for topics like pencil grip, scissor skills, and sensory processing.
Priscila breaks down pencil the different ages with actionable tips on how to help.
Like anything in life, the correct pencil grip will take practice.
Practice, dedication, and one on one instruction WILL pay off. We can help incorrect pencil grip over time.
Developing Pencil Grip – One Year of Age:
From 1-1.5 years, you will see your toddler holding a crayon with fisted hands, slightly flexed, and the arm moving as one unit.
Guess what? It is called a palmar grasp, and it is developmental!
This is the time to develop their palmar arches without focusing too much on writing and grasp.
Palmar arches allow for the cupping action of the hand to hold objects (like a pencil). So instead of the pencil, focus on manipulatives and toys that involve squeezing, pinching, putting small things together, and pulling them apart.
But remember, exposure is also essential! Expose toddlers to crayons and let them make marks and scribble for fun!
RELATED: 50+ Fine Motor Skills Activities
Activities and Ideas for Development of Palmar Arches:
- SQUEEZE: Sweet and Tasty Sensory Bin – Days with Grey
- PINCH: Drop Box Taby Activity – Busy Toddler
- PUT TOGETHER, PULL APART: Match it Up – Playing with Chanel
- PUT TOGETHER, PULL APART: Animal Tape Rescue – Busy Toddler
Developing Pencil Grip – Two to Three Years of Age:
From 2-3 years, you will see your toddler holding the pencil more with their fingers.
Their wrist will also straighten out as their hands get stronger and more coordinated.
This period is the time to develop their thumb, index, and middle finger to work together.
Manipulatives that focus on this are clothespins, tweezers, tongs, eye-droppers, spray bottles, stamps.
Strategies for Proper Grasp:
- 3 Finger Rule: Break crayons into small pieces (as it requires them to use the three fingers).
- Don’t go Flat: Draw on a slant or vertical walls! WHY? Their wrist goes into a slight extension, which is the optimal position when using a pencil.
- Go Short: Use short and fat crayons or markers
- Go Small: Use small pieces of chalk
- Go Tiny: Golf pencils
Pre-Writing Benchmark Skills: (these are lines your 2-3-year-old can write)
- circular strokes
Pencil Grip Activities and Ideas for 2-3 Year Old Pencil Grip:
- EYE DROPPERS: Lemon Sensory Bin – Days with Grey
- FINGER CONTROL: Finger Isolation Finger Painting – Playing with Chanel
- FINGER CONTROL: Bring the Bears Home – Days with Grey
- SPRAY BOTTLES: Splash the Alphabet – Days with Grey
- SQUIRT BOTTLES: Paint the Ice – Days with Grey
- STAMPING: Golf Tees + Hammer – Playing with Chanel
- TONGS: Run and Sort – Days with Grey
- TWEEZERS: Straw Tweezers – Playing with Chanel
Developing Pencil Grip – Three and a half years+ – Tripod Grasp
You want to see that your preschooler will hold the pencil with the thumb, index, and middle fingertips.
This position is called a tripod grasp.
Here, the wrist is slightly extended.
Now is the time to sit and practice with your preschooler. Spending 5 minutes on the set-up and 7 minutes working WITH your child will have a powerful payoff.
Set aside the same time every day to practice together.
This practice is not a time to battle over how to hold a pencil.
It is time to take a step back and look at the activity together at a much slower pace.
- Priority: Now is the time to refine their skills!
- Create Activities! (Not Tasks): Incorporate mazes, dot to dot, tracing, drawing, and games instead of worksheets and writing letters. – I have you covered with 10+ ideas below.
- Create Fun! Focus on the above strategies for proper grasp and make writing fun!
- Development takes Time: Remember, hand dominance fully develops at around age 4-5 years, so make sure they get the opportunity to strengthen both sides of their hands.
- Seek Root Issue: If your preschooler is not holding their pencil with a tripod grasp, then it may be because they got in the habit of keeping the pencil the wrong way, weak hand strength, and perhaps not enough exposure.
Many of our Breakfast Invitations are to reinforce pencil grip. They force your preschooler to hold the marker steady in a fun, low keyway.
My plan? To take one of these activities a day and intentionally work with my three-year-old.
RELATED: Cutting practice and scissor skills help improve pencil grip too!
Activities for Pencil Grip for Three Years and Older:
- DRAWING: Rainbow Movement – Playing with Chanel
- DOT TO DOT: Apple Dot to Dot – Days with Grey
- FUN GAMES: (amazon affiliate links below)
- GRASP: Button Push – Days with Grey
- GRASP: Paint the Sticks – Days with Grey
- GRIP: Shape Match – Days with Grey
- HAND CONTROL: Cardboard Nail Painting – Playing with Chanel
- MAZES: Giant Dot to Dot – Days with Grey
- MONSTER DOT TO DOT – Days with Grey
- PLACEMENT: Dot Sticker Names – Playing with Chanel
- PLACEMENT: Rainbow Bears – Days with Grey
- SCISSORS – Spaghetti Scissor Cut – Days with Grey
- SCISSOR PRACTICE: Cut the Shapes – Days with Grey
- SQUIRTING: Neon Squirt – Days with Grey
- TRACING: Highlighter Trace – Days with Grey
- TWEEZERS: Pom Pom Pick Up – Playing with Chanel
Remember, to fix something; you have to stick with it.
Let’s help our child’s pencil grip together.