Don’t make the mistake of skipping over teaching correct pencil grip to your preschooler or kindergartener! Try these easy teaching tricks.
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Teaching Correct Pencil Grip
When it comes to learning to read and write, it really is the small things that are the foundation of those skills. The things we teach, help develop, and strength that seem small or insignificant are often some of the crucial steps that the rest is built on. I am thinking, in particular, of learning how to properly grip a pencil. Seems insignificant, right? But if you can’t do that, your handwriting is difficult to read. Without legible handwriting, people cannot understand what you write. Frustration builds and grades suffer. Obviously, although seemingly small, this skill is actually very important.
But how in the world do you teach correct pencil grip? The first thing to do is to set reasonable expectations. A child is not developmentally ready to hold a pencil before a certain age. Around the age of 3, those skills should be developing in a child. Of course, there are things you can do even before then to encourage such fine motor skills.
One thing to remember, like any other skills, pencil gripping takes practice and a willingness to learn. Make the process of learning fun and low stress, so as to not turn the child off from working at it.
Let’s take a look at some simple ways you can be helping your child prepare for writing with a pencil, and strengthening the skill once they learn.
- Do activities that focus on squeezing, pinching, and pulling small objects apart. A young child naturally “cups” things with their hands. This is a part of natural development. But to learn to hold a pencil, new skills are needed. You can encourage these specific skills with some of the following activities:
- Toy Rescue– Secure small toy animals or other objects to a table with tape. Have the child work at “rescuing” the animal by removing the tape.
- Pom-Pom Pick Up– Scatter pom-poms on a surface and let the child pick them up and place in a cup.
- Play With Blocks– This is a good activity at any age. It reinforces several critical skills.
- Strengthen coordination. As a child gets older (between 2-3 years old), they can work on developing coordination with their fingers. Instead of simple “cupping” or picking up small objects and moving them, more complex skills are developing. Try some of these activities:
- Tweezers– Set up a challenge where a child must use tweezers (you can buy big plastic ones) to pick up objects to move them into a bowl or plate.
- Clothespins– The motion needed to pinch clothespins is difficult, but can help strengthen finger coordination.
- Stamps– A fun way to use fingers accurately.
- Scissor practice– Using scissors is a skill that develops around this time and requires coordination. You can have kids cut strips of paper, cut along lines or any number of cutting activities.
- Learn how to hold a pencil. By this point, a child is ready to try using a pencil. Even if grip is not always accurate, experimentation is a key to becoming comfortable with a pencil. But you will also need to provide direct instruction on how to accurately use a tripod hold to grasp pencil.
- Trace lines– Have your child trace straight lines- vertical and horizontal, circular lines and zig-zag lines. One way to do this is, as the adult, draw with a highlighter and have the child trace the lines with their pencil.
- Dot-to-dot pictures- This is a fun way for kids to work on pencil control.
- One-on-one time– Don’t forget to provide direct instruction of how to hold a pencil. Demonstration is key.
- Practice! It will take a lot of practice to master this skill. Work with your child in short time increments, in order to keep their attention. Provide praise when they make a good effort. Troubleshoot if they are unable to write legibly. Could their posture be off, are they needing some support with the pencil while they write? Each child’s ability and proficiency is different, so be patient as you teach them.
This is just a quick overview of how you can teach your child to correctly grip a pencil. It takes time and patience to teach. And it requires that certain fine motor skills be present. But there is a lot you can do to help a child move toward mastery of this skill. Really, the ideas are simple. Just being aware and deliberate, we can help our child be successful!
Below are a few resources that you might find helpful as you undertake this endeavor!
- How to Hold a Pencil!- This video is for kids, by a kid! He demonstrates, using “Allie the Alligator” to correctly grip a pencil.
- How to Hold a Pencil: Simple and Clear Instructions- This is an illustrated book that helps kids see examples of how to hold a pencil.
- When Pencil Met Eraser– A fun kids’ book that explores the idea of creativity by looking at the relationship between a pencil and its eraser!
- Pencil Claws– These fit on a child’s pencil and provide a place to stick their fingers. Could be good to get them in the habit of gripping the pencil correctly.
- Alphabet Tracing Lined Paper– This can provide some good practice for your child who is learning to write.
- My First Pencils (Ticonderoga)– These larger diameter pencils are great for kids when they are just starting out with their writing.