How To Teach Your Child To Hold A Pencil Right

With more and more children using smartphones and tablets for learning and play, it has become crucial for parents to teach their children how to write and hold a pencil properly. Here are some tips.

By Leena Ghosh

How To Teach Your Child To Hold A Pencil Right

Parents today often feel happy about how tech-savvy their child is. Today, a child, as young as a preschooler, knows how to open an app or watch videos on his parents' smartphone or tablet. However, that’s not necessarily a good thing.

With more children being given tablets or smartphones for play, there is a rising concern about them not learning how to write or hold a pencil properly. According to an article titled, ‘Children struggle to hold pencils due to too much tech, doctors say,’ by Amelia Hill published in The Guardian in February 2018, ‘An overuse of touchscreen phones and tablets is preventing children’s finger muscles from developing sufficiently to enable them to hold a pencil correctly.’

Experts believe that there are many benefits for a child when she learns how to hold a pencil and write on paper. 

“Taking time to put pen to paper can actually increase your learning capability, retention and brain development, according to many experts and studies on handwriting conducted over the past few years. While many schools are taking cursive requirements out of their curriculum, we can’t let the practice and benefits of handwriting fall to the wayside. For children, writing by hand is extremely important. Not how well they do it, but that they do it, and practice it. Typing does not do the same thing.” - Ponnuri Gopiikrishna, Handwriting Expert, Founder, Sree Bhagavathi Yoga Trust, Vijayawada.

An important aspect of knowing how to write is to teach a child how to hold a pencil properly. However, before we list the activities you can do to teach him that skill, you need to know about the different types of pencil grips.

Different types of pencil grip

Five-finger grasp or the fisted grasp: All children learn how to hold a pencil or a pen initially by holding it with their five fingers. They hold the pencil in their fist and use their shoulders to move the pencil across the surface. Your child develops this grasp between 12 and 18 months.

Palmar grasp: Your child develops this grasp as she gains more control of her movements and uses her arm muscles to scribble or colour with a pencil. In this grasp, the child holds the pencil across the palm and the hand points downward toward the paper. Children usually develop this grasp by the age of two and continue using it till they are three years or a little older.

Static tripod or the quadrupod grasp: Between the ages of three-and-a-half years and four years, a child usually learns how to master this grasp. In this, he holds the pencil with three fingers (index, thumb and middle finger) or four fingers (thumb, index, middle and ring finger). However, he doesn’t use his fingers independently for writing. This grasp involves moving the wrist as he tries to colour or draw lines on a surface.

Dynamic tripod grasp: By age six, your child learns how to hold the pencil correctly – that is, she uses her thumb, index finger and ring finger to grasp the pencil. By now, she can move her fingers independently without moving her wrist. This enables her to write and draw with more precision.

Activities to help your child hold a pencil correctly

  1. Strengthen the pincer grasp: Pincer grasp is the one your child uses to hold something between her index and thumb finger. Getting the pincer grasp right is crucial to helping her write properly. Activities like using a thread to string beads, bursting bubble wraps or playing with building blocks can help strengthen her pincer grasp.
  2. Engage the last two fingers: While holding a pencil or a pen, ask your child to hold a coin with his last two fingers (the ring finger and the little finger). This will help him move his other three fingers more independently while he keeps the other two fingers closed in his fist.
  3. Use ‘go’ and ‘stop’ fingers: ‘Go’ fingers are the ones that hold the pencil and the ‘stop’ fingers are the ones that go inside the palm. If your child learns this basic step, writing will become a cakewalk for her. To make her remember, draw a picture of ‘go’ and ‘stop’ fingers on paper, or mark her thumb, index and middle fingers with green washable ink and her ring and little finger with red ink.
  4. Use crayons or smaller, thicker pencils: For children who have a weak grasp, using a smaller, fatter pencil or a crayon is helpful. Experiment with sizes till your child finds the one he is most comfortable with.
  5. Play with play dough: When your child plays with clay or play dough, she uses her fingers to pinch, fold or mould the dough to get the desired shape. This activity really helps her develop her motor skills.

Learning how to write requires patience and time, and your child needs you to encourage and motivate him to master this art. Make the act of writing fun for him and he will learn how to hold a pencil properly and write in no time. 

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