The Handwriting Clinic

The Pencil Grip

Why do we need a good grip and what is the most effective way to hold a pencil?

A good pencil grip will allow the child to hold the pencil in the hand to facilitate small movements of the fingers and wrist. In addition a good grip can be used to move the pencil point in all directions on the paper.

The Dynamic tripod grip is the most effective for finger positioning and handwriting flow:

+ the pencil is stabilised between the thumb and the side of the index finger.

+ the middle finger supports under the pencil.

+ the ring and middle fingers rest lightly in the palm of the hand.

+ The wrist is held straight (in extension).

A good grip allows the child to make small bending and straightening movements of the fingers. The finger positioning is important to provide two different functions: stability and mobility.

Below is a dynamic tripod grip with open web space (space between index and thumb fingers.)

Lets look at a few grips:

The above little boy is holding his crayon with his two fingers the thumb and the index finger, he is supporting the crayon underneath with his middle finger. The ring and small finger is tucked up and touching his palm. His supporter hand is stabilising the paper. Using a short crayon helps the child to perfect his tripod grip. This young child is being encouraged to open his webspace more to make 'froggy legs' when holding his pencil /crayon.

The more closed the web space the more fatigue a child will experience as they use the whole hand to move the pencil instead of the fingers. A child holds the pencil tighter to create stability. Hand and finger strength exercises are required to strengthen his hand. Also lots of colouring of pictures, encouraging to stay within the lines, writing and tracing in between lines will develop his control, stability and strength. The fingers will relax more decreasing fatigue of the fingers.

The thumb that is crossed over or tucked in, suggests that greater finger strength,and control, are required. He holds tighter to help support and increase his control.

A few activities to promote the most comfortable handwriting grip:

+ play-doh has great value for finger strength. Clay pots by placing your thumb in the center of a play-doh ball, using the other fingers to mould the outside of the small clay pot.

+ popping bubblewrap using only the thumb and index finger (always under supervision of an adult)

+ when your child plays in the bath or shower encourage 10 squeezes of the sponge

+ lots of construction games such as lego, blocks, stacking games model aeroplanes, beadwork for girls, etc

+ paper folding, origami

This blog is for Educational Purposes.

If your child has handwriting difficulties please visit our Handwriting Clinic in Tullamore Co. Offaly.


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As with all activities involving children, please take great care to ensure all sharp objects are moved out of reach, and that parental supervision is available at all times. Some activities suggested make use of small objects that may cause a choking hazard for young children. Keep small objects out of reach of young children!

The author and publisher of this website and the accompanying resources have prepared this website and the accompanying resources to the best of their abilities and with their best intentions.

While the information contained within the site is periodically updated, no guarantee is given that the information provided in this website is correct, complete, and/or up-to-date. The information contained in this website and the accompanying resources is strictly for educational purposes. Therefore, if you wish to apply ideas contained in this website and the accompanying resources, you are taking full responsibility for your actions. This does not replace Occupational Therapy and all activities should be under the guidance of an experienced therapist.

OT Therapy does not accept any responsibility for any loss which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. The author and publisher of OT Therapy shall in no event be held liable to any party for any direct, indirect, incidental or other consequential damages arising directly or indirectly from any use of this material.

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