If you’ve noticed that your child struggles to hold a pencil well, it’s important to tackle the issue as soon as possible.
If pencil grip issues go ignored, the child’s academic performance can drop as a result.
This can have greater repercussions, as the child will notice that they are falling behind, leading to frustration, low-self confidence, and anxiety later on.
The best way of holding a pencil is between the index finger and thumb, where the pencil rests on the middle finger. This is known as the dynamic tripod grasp.
A different choice is a quadrupod grasp. This involves holding the pencil between the thumb, middle, and index fingers.
The fourth finger will keep the pencil sturdy, while the fifth one remains curled in the direction of the palm.
If your child isn’t holding a pencil with one of these grips, fine motor activities can help them develop the skills needed to grip a pencil practically.
This will help them write smoothly, without any problems.
We’ll cover some ways of correcting pencil grip in this post, as well as some of the causes of poor pencil grip to be aware of.
Why Does Poor Pencil Grip Happen?
Poor pencil grip is the result of weak finger muscles. This is an example of fine motor weakness, resulting in a clumsy grip.
If certain finger muscles aren’t developed properly, this can lead to poor coordination. You may notice children holding pencils in several ways to try and stabilize the tool.
Using fine motor skill activities and opportunities can increase the strength of the hand’s intrinsic muscles, leading to better hand coordination.
Though fine motor weakness is usually the reason behind poor pencil grip, another reason may be due to weak shoulder muscles.
The arm and shoulder muscles are needed to hold a pencil when writing. While working on fine motor skills is important, it’s a good idea to look at activities that make the shoulders stronger.
Some examples of shoulder strength activities are wheelbarrow walks, hanging from monkey bars, and laying on your stomach while coloring.
How To Improve Pencil Grip
Now that you know why poor pencil grip occurs, here are some activities you can implement to address the issue.
Fine Motor Skills
Children need strong fingers and hands to take part in activities throughout the day.
Having strong fingers, hands, and wrists ensures children hold their pencils properly, as well as write smoothly, efficiently, and fluently.
Here are some exercises that can increase your child’s fine motor skills:
Pegs: Squeezing and pinching pegs, clips, or tongs can make hand muscles stronger.
- Ask your child to pick up pom poms with pegs, then class them into different sections based on size or color.
- Draw and cut out a large caterpillar shape on paper, then draw its face on the end. Ask your child to attach pegs to the caterpillar’s body, acting as the critter’s legs.
Play-Doh Activities: Kids always love Play-Doh games, including the following:
- Try a guessing game, where the child uses putty to make something, while a different child, or you, guesses what the thing is.
- Make an octopus or spider by asking the child to roll, flatten, and pinch the Play-Doh into eight legs. Make sure the child uses their index finger and thumb to do so (pincer fingers).
- Have your child take small bits of Play-Doh and roll them into thin ‘spaghetti’ noodles.
Crumpling Paper: Give your child scrap paper or sheets of newspaper to scrunch into the tightest, smallest ball they can.
Once they can do this easily, give them a challenge by only letting them use a single hand to scrunch the paper.
Tape Speed Race: Have your child tear off masking tape pieces, then stick them to a flat surface, like the floor or table. Race to see how many pieces they can remove in a minute.
Dividing The Hand
The hands can be divided into two sides. One is the power side, made from the fourth and fifth fingers, while the other is the precision side, made with the middle finger, index, and thumb.
It’s important to use the two sides individually to use certain items, like scissors, cutlery, and pencils.
It’s easier to manage the ‘precision’ side when the ‘power’ side is steady, either extended away or curled into the palm.
This helps with control and fluency when writing, helping to encourage neater penmanship.
To help your child use their two hand sides separately, have them hold a small item (button, coin, LEGO piece, eraser…) with their fifth and fourth fingers.
As they do so, ask the child to use their hand’s precision side with one of the activities below:
- Rolling putty into little balls
- Using pipe cleaners to make shapes
- Flipping coins
- Playing Battleship or Connect Four
- Adding coins to a piggy bank
Thumb Web Space
The space separating your index finger and thumb is known as the thumb web space. An open thumb web space is important for certain jobs, like picking up a pencil or moving coins around the hand.
It’s harder to move objects if the thumb is pressed against the index finger, known as a closed web space.
This can lead to slow and poor handwriting, particularly as children are required to write quicker as they get older.
Here are some activities to help your child open their thumb web space:
- Pop bubble wrap
- Use pads of the index finger and thumb to roll putty into little balls
- Thread string through plastic beads, or thread yarn through straws
- Take part in games that involve holding small pieces with a pincer grasp, like checkers
In-hand control is the process of moving little items around your hand, without needing the help of the opposite hand.
This is known as the most complicated fine motor skill, as it requires three elements:
- Translation: Using fingers to move a little object to the fingertips from the palm. An example is holding a coin with your palm, then pushing it into a piggy bank with the fingertips.
- Shifting: Using fingertips to move an object, like controlling a zipper, or switching between pencil grips.
- Rotating: Using fingertips to roll an item, like turning a pencil over for its rubber, or rolling a pencil in your fingers.
- If your child struggles with in-hand control, they may use both hands for jobs that normally need one hand. They may also try to steady an item against their body to complete a task.
Here are some pencil activities that can help improve n-hand control, leading to better pen grip overall.
- Use fingertips to hold a pencil for writing, then move the fingers to the eraser side of the pencil. Move the fingers back to the pencil’s tip again.
- Move the pencil between fingers and thumb, like a windmill. Switch directions occasionally.
- Try turning the pencil from its tip end to its eraser end.
The Bottom Line
You should try to improve your child’s pencil grip as soon as you notice an issue. If it goes ignored, it will be more difficult to change these writing habits as they get older.
The activities above will help your loved one develop the skills and strength needed to better their pencil grip.
However, if your child does continue to struggle with pencil grip, see a children’s occupational therapist.
These professionals help individuals overcome difficulties with everyday activities, so they’ll be able to help your child beat their pencil grip issues.
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