“Help! How can I help my child hold a pencil?”
This 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. Here we are, teaching children to be independent thinkers, and then swooping in to correct everything.
My three-year-old is full of independence and absolutely 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.
And with the help of Playing with Chanel, you can do this as well.
Here’s how to help your child with pencil grip.
RELATED: Having activities accessible is key. FIND THEM ALL HERE.
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.
Now, just 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 totally 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 objects together and pulling them apart.
But remember exposure is also important! Expose toddlers to crayons and let them make marks and scribble for fun!
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.
As their hands get stronger and more coordinated, and their wrist will also straighten out.
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:
Break crayons into small pieces (as it requires them to use the three fingers),
Use small pieces of chalk
Use short and fat crayons or markers
Draw on a slant or vertical walls! WHY? Their wrist goes into a slight extension, which is the optimal position when using a pencil.
Prewriting Benchmark Skills: (these are lines your 2-3-year-old can write)
Pencil Grip Activities and Ideas for 2-3 Year Old Pencil Grip:
FINGER CONTROL: Finger Isolation Finger Painting – Playing with Chanel
FINGER CONTROL: Bring the Bears Home – Days with Grey
TWEEZERS: Straw Tweezers – Playing with Chanel
TONGS: Run and Sort – Days with Grey
EYE DROPPERS: Lemon Sensory Bin – 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
Developing Pencil Grip – Three and a half years+ – Tripod Grasp
You want to see that your preschooler will hold the pencil with tips of the thumb, index, and middle finger.
This position is called a tripod grasp.
Here, the wrist is slightly extended.
Now is the time to sit and practice one on one 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 with a much slower pace.
Now is the time to refine their skills!
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.
Focus on the above strategies for proper grasp and make writing fun!
Incorporate mazes, dot to dot, tracing, drawing, and games instead of worksheets and writing letters. – I have you covered with 10+ ideas below.
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.
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.
Activities for Pencil Grip for Three Years and Older:
MONSTER DOT TO DOT – Days with Grey
MAZES: Giant Dot to Dot – Days with Grey
TWEEZERS: Pom Pom Pick Up – Playing with Chanel
DOT TO DOT: Apple Dot to Dot – Days with Grey
PLACEMENT: Dot Sticker Names – Playing with Chanel
PLACEMENT: Rainbow Bears – Days with Grey
TRACING: Highlighter Trace – Days with Grey
DRAWING: Rainbow Movement – Playing with Chanel
GRIP: Shape Match – Days with Grey
GRASP: Button Push – Days with Grey
GRASP: Paint the Sticks – Days with Grey
SCISSOR PRACTICE: Cut the Shapes – Days with Grey
HAND CONTROL: Cardboard Nail Painting – Playing with Chanel
SQUIRTING: Neon Squirt – Days with Grey
SCISSORS – Spaghetti Scissor Cut – Days with Grey
FUN GAMES: (amazon affiliate links below)
You can find a complete list of Playing with Chanel’s Favorite Products here.
Remember, to fix something, you have to stick with it. But, WE CAN DO HARD THINGS, RIGHT? Let’s help our preschooler’s grip together. Thank you, Playing with Chanel!