Good habits that begin in early years will last a lifetime—and holding a crayon or pencil correctly is a very important habit. Awkward grips can cause fatigue, cramping, and even pain—making writing difficult. Pencil grip difficulties become more apparent in primary years as writing demands increase, however, they can develop in children as early as preschoolers.
The correct pencil grip involves holding the pencil between the thumb and pointer finger, and resting the pencil on the middle finger for added stability. Since a child’s natural inclination is to hold a pencil with his entire fist (pinky finger closest to the paper and index finger and thumb on top), the proper pencil grip must be actively taught. Since writing comfortably is a skill your child will use throughout his lifetime, it is wise to help your child develop a comfortable and efficient pencil grip when he is young. Also, it is much easier to learn to hold a pencil correctly at the start than it is to unlearn an improper pencil grip and retrain muscles to learn the proper grip once your child is older.
Teaching Your Child the Proper Pencil Grip
Use a golf pencil instead of a regular pencil. Golf pencils are typically half the length of standard pencils and, as an added convenience for parents, come pre-sharpened. Since they are smaller and lighter than the average pencil, they are the perfectly sized writing utensil for all children under the age of six or seven.
Two efficient grips that are universally recommended for children to achieve the tripod grip and the quadropod grip.
Quadropod grip: four fingers work together to stabilize the writing tool. Notice how the pencil rests on the ring finger and this provides additional support.
The time-tested ergonomic way to hold a pencil is the tripod grasp.
Most children can learn how to place their fingers in the tripod position, but if they have established another grasp, the tripod may feel awkward at first.
Demonstrate the proper pencil grip for your child before handing him the pencil. As you do, say aloud where you are placing your fingers. Show him how you are able to easily control the pencil with that grip.
Finger position: Three fingers—the long finger, the thumb and the index finger—form a tripod to hold the pencil, as shown in the illustration.
Index Finger Rests: Many people put extra pressure on the index finger, hyperextending the first joint. (Check for pressure in the knuckle.) The tip of the index finger should rest on top of the pencil.
Fingers Bend, Slightly: All five fingers should bend slightly. (Some people pull their fingers into a fist.
Some hold a pencil with their thumb straight.) A ball should be able to fit inside the hand. Place the pencil into your child’s hand and position his fingers correctly. Start by having him pinch the pencil with his thumb and index finger approximately half an inch above the sharpened point. Once he can support the weight of the pencil with those two fingers, direct him to “rest” the pencil on his middle finger for added support and control.
Once your child is holding the pencil with the correct grip, direct him to rest the side of his hand closest to his pinky on the paper. Show him how to use his non-dominant hand to stabilize the paper so it remains steady as his dominant hand does most of the work.
Pencil grip is important because it allows the fine movement necessary for writing. The pencil should be held 1/2 - 1 1/5 inches (1-3 cm) from the tip of the pencil and the fingers need to be able to move individually.
Left-handed writers: It's recommended that left-handed writers grip the pencil 1 1/2 inches (3 cm) from the tip of the pencil to help the child see what has been written. If the thumb, index finger and middle finger share holding the writing implement, the child will find the writing position easy to maintain.
The most optimal position for writing includes the ankle, knee and hip at right (90 degrees) angles with the forearms resting on the desk. The top of the desk should be approximately 2 inches above the elbows when the arms are at the student's side.
Teaching a child to hold a pencil correctly is important. Facing pencil grips in 3 easy steps is taken from a Japenese activity book for kids.
Tips to improve pencil grip:
Use of tweezers, tongs, scissors, and coloring labs within the classroom can help develop fine motor skills needed to hold a pencil.
Purchase some tweezers, or “toaster tongs” from the drugstore or kitchen supply store.
Think of all the manipulatives already available in the classroom, and have the student place their fingers in a tripod grasp on the tongs to do the center activities. This will allow the student to isolate the thumb, index and third fingers for manipulation, and allow the 4th and 5th fingers to provide stability.