Holding On: Correct Pencil Grip Matters

posted 3/14/23 -- How do you hold your pencil? You probably don’t think about it. For older preschoolers, learning how to hold a pencil correctly is one of their biggest projects.

LCCAA Head Start at Firelands tackled this critical fine-motor skill in collaboration with the kindergarten teachers in their building.

Since their classroom is housed inside Firelands Elementary School in Oberlin, Head Start teachers have been able to meet multiple times with their colleagues to discuss necessary preparation for the students they share.

“Our main goal was to see how our students from last year are faring in kindergarten and whether we needed to concentrate more on any skills,” said Site Administrator Pam Caruso.

The teachers shared that many kindergarten students struggle with writing because of incorrect pencil grip. They asked that the Head Start teachers concentrate on correcting the grip so the children come in ready to write.

As children grow and develop, there is a progression in how they hold a pencil. First, they use their whole fist instead of the preferred tripod grasp. Children need lots of opportunities to try different grasps as their small motor muscles develop, Caruso said.

“For the younger 3s and 4s we encourage the use of play-dough, tweezers to pick things up, and other types of writing such as shaving cream or sand to strengthen those muscles,” she said.

“Particularly in this age of white boards and finger swiping with technology, children do not always have opportunity to develop the necessary muscles.”

Caruso and her teachers had already switched the Head Start students to golf pencils whose shorter length offers less room for mistakes.

“The kindergarten teachers showed us the plastic grip they put on pencils to help the children to place their fingers in the correct position,” Caruso said. “Coincidentally, one of our teachers had already suggested the same grips after seeing them at an early childhood conference.”

The pencil grips were ordered and demonstrated to parents at conferences.

The grip is also more comfortable and will, with practice, lead to improved handwriting.

“We are determined that our Head Start students will master the correct pencil grip during their time with us,” Caruso said.

Tips Parents Can Try at Home

For younger children, encourage small motor development with play-dough or writing in shaving cream or sand. Make sure they have chances to practice.

Have plenty of writing materials available to your child. Scrap paper, crayons and shorter or “mini” pencils are perfect for preschoolers.

Give them opportunities to practice. Color with them or sit to do paperwork while they scribble on scrap paper.

Watch them. Look for changes in the way they hold a pencil or crayon. Demonstrate the hold you want them to adopt.

If they are struggling or you are concerned about their development, contact their teacher immediately.

Learn more at www.thepencilgrip.com or www.yourkidsot.com/blog/holding-a-pencil-does-it-really-matter-how.