One essential skill necessary for preschoolers is holding a pencil correctly when handwriting. A lot of children enter first grade and still hold their pencils in their fists. This is fine for toddlers just learning to color, but preschoolers and kindergartners that don't have fine motor skills delays should know hold to hold their pencil correctly — using their pointer finger and thumb.
Here are five tips to help your child learn the skill of pencil holding.
1. Encourage Fine Motor Play
Fine motor play is something you can have your child do at home to teach proper pencil grasp, unless they're already in formal school. Fine motor play helps develop dexterity and strength of your child's small hand muscles — the same muscles they use to hold a pencil. You'll find many toys designed specifically to help practice fine motor skills, however, you already have basic items in your home to help encourage fine motor work such as:
- Clothes pins
- Cotton swabs
- Muffin tins and rubber bands
- Aluminum foil
2. Use the Three-Finger Rule
Gripping a pencil technically calls for the use of the thumb and two fingers. Another name for this is the tripod grip and it's the best way to hold a pencil. With this technique, your child will use their thumb, index and middle fingers as support to grip the pencil.
3. Apply Pressure
Quite common in toddlers is not applying the proper pressure while writing with a pencil. If your child is writing and their pencil lines are light or not visible, they're not applying enough pressure. However, too much pressure can cause them to tear the paper and/or break the pencil. So, you'll want to teach them the correct pressure to apply when they're using their pencil, once they've mastered the grip.
4. Use Shorter Pencils
By using a shorter pencil, there will be less space for your child to cram in fingers they don't need. Shorter pencils essentially "force" children to pinch with their index finger and thumb. It's also why your child's pediatric occupational therapist will have your child use crayons that are broken in half when they're having difficulty applying an age-appropriate grasp.
5. Use Crumpled Tissue
Put a crumpled tissue in your child's hand between their last two fingers and palm. Have them continue holding it there while they write. This helps keep the unnecessary fingers out of the way.