Pencil Grip. It’s one of those things that needs to be addressed as kids near Kindergarten age. But for the younger child, requiring the child to have the correct pencil grip can be frustrating for both the child and the mama. This subject came to the forefront of my mind when I posted this picture of NJoy (3 years, 3 months old) holding a dry erase marker.
A reader commented on his incorrect grip (it made her “cringe”). Her comment made me take a step back to re-evaluate what I truly believe about literacy (which includes that pencil grip) and why I believe it.
Literacy is a Developmental Journey
The foundation of my thoughts: Literacy is a journey…a developmental journey. It will always be my stance with literacy. And what exactly do I mean by literacy? You can view that here. And what do I mean by developmental journey? That just because a child is in one stage of development, it doesn’t mean he will stay there. When encouraged and guided, the majority of children replace unconventional literacy skills with those that are conventional. (An example of this: MBug, at 20 months, calls me “ma-ma”, but as she grows and is encouraged in her literacy development, she’ll replace it with “mom” or “mommy”.) With the foundation laid, I know that NJoy may not hold the pencil correctly now (even though I model it for him), he will eventually.
Tips for Correct Pencil Grip
An OT friend of mine shared some great information via email about pencil grip. I would like to share her information. The appropriate grip is the tripod (three-finger) or quadrupod (four-finger) grasp with the last 2 fingers (ring finger and pinky) tucked into the palm. This position is optimal because it separates the “2 sides of the hand” – the “skill side” (thumb, index and middle) that is used primarily for manipulating (tools, buttons, keys in locks, etc.) and the “stability side” which is what it says the two fingers (ring and pinky) that curl in and provide the stability/support for the skill side to do what it needs to do.
You can help to achieve this grasp in younger kids by giving them short (or broken) crayons that make it much harder to use a fisted, all finger or palmer grasp. She prefers the “pip squeaks” markers over the larger markers for the same reason. Fat, primary crayons (and probably that dry erase marker) actually foster a fisted grasp. She tells parents and whoever will listen, “Break those crayons into small pieces!”
A child should put his fingers where the paint and the wood meet on a pencil. The easiest trick is to make an A-OK sign with your writing hand. Open the circle and place the pencil into it so the thumb and index finger are pinching the pencil. Drop the other fingers down and into your palm – this is the “tripod grasp”.
The appropriate arm position is with the wrist and forearm resting on the table (not elevated above it).
More Resources for Correct Pencil Grip
- Michelle, from Beginning Reading Help, shared a very helpful website on pencil grip and one of her blog posts: forming letters. She also said, “You can give your son suggestions and model a little now, but if he loves to draw and write you shouldn’t ruin it my forcing him to hold his pencil or crayon in a certain way, yet. There’s plenty of time to teach. I say let him explore and play with writing.”
- Nicole, from The Activity Mom, also said something I loved: “Young children should be developing a love of print, writing, drawing, etc. I think the correct grip happens over time after developing those muscles, lots of practice, and seeing it modeled over and over.”
- Busy Kids=Happy Mom shares a great reason you should break those crayons!
- Pencil Grasp Development for Writing with Kids from Golden Reflections Blog
If your child is young and you have cringed at his pencil grip, I would suggest to you: consider your child’s development. Is he actually ready to do it or does he just need time to develop, explore, and “play” with writing so he can fall in love with it when he’s older?
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