HOW TO TEACH CORRECT PENCIL GRIP
By the time a child turns 5 or 6 years old, their finger muscles should be developed and strong enough to grip a pencil correctly. A correct pencil grasp is one where the child uses only three-fingers to hold the pencil or crayon (the thumb, index, and middle finger). As your child learns to use a mature pencil grip, they may switch back and forth between using a five-finger and three-finger grip as they practice writing.
An incorrect pencil grip may emerge and persist for a number of reasons:
- Your child may not have been taught how to hold it correctly
- Your child may have poor fine motor skills
- Your child may have motor planning challenges
- Your child may have low hand strength
- Your child may have low muscle tone
- Your child may not find the grasp comfortable yet
It is important to help build fine motor strength and dexterity to enable a child use and maintain a proper grasp. Developing a good grasp from the start is important in order to ensure that improper grasp patterns don’t form into habits which impact handwriting fluency later on.
The following are some engaging and fun activities to help your child with their pencil grip:
- Use resistance putty to help build general hand strength. Finding hidden coins in putty and then using a pincer grasp to put the coins into a piggy bank or other small slot is a fun activity to practice. You can also roll out the putty into a long log, and then have your child pinch it to reinforce the pincer grip.
- Try to encourage your child to rest the pinky side of their hand on the paper when they are coloring or writing. This will help develop hand stabilization.
- Use tongs with your child. Encourage them to have three fingers on the tongs (with the last two fingers tucked in). You can give them a pom pom to hold with the last two fingers if they are having difficulty with this. Try using tongs during snack time to put grapes, raisins, popcorn, cheese balls, jelly beans, etc. on the plate.
- Break crayons into small pieces about ¼” inch size for coloring tasks. Using short chunks naturally encourages a tripod grasp.
- If shorter chunks of crayon don't do the trick, try the “pinch and flip” method. You’re your child pinch the sharpened end of the pencil (or end of a crayon) and then “flip” it around until it rests in the “web space” of the hand (the space between your thumb and index finger).
For some children, a pencil grip works best to help train the fingers into a correct grasp pattern. Grips that have actual finger placement areas work best!
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