1. Incorrect Pencil Grip
1.1 Why does incorrect grip happen?
1.2 Types of incorrect pencil grips
1.3 Consequences of incorrect pencil grip
2. How to help kids cultivate correct pencil grip?
Coloring, scribbling, and playing with arts and craft supplies is part of being a child. Children engage in extensive creative play of all kinds. While most of us consider this play to be fun and creative, the truth is that these activities also play a fundamental role in the development of your child’s literacy, and fine motor skills.
One of the essential skills that a child develops through creative coloring, scribbling, and practice writing is the ability to grasp a pencil correctly, and write neatly. The way a child grasps their pencil at any age can be an indicator of their fine motor skill development. It is very important that all parents and caregivers recognize the development that a child should exhibit in their pencil grasp skills, so they can be prepared to offer support in developing this fundamental fine motor skill.
1. Incorrect Pencil Grip
As an adult, you probably give very little thought to how you grip a pencil, and how you came to develop the skills needed to write neatly, fill in forms, and use a pencil correctly. The truth is, using a pencil or pen is not as easy as it seems, and every person puts a lot of time, effort, and energy into cultivating this skill throughout their childhood. The fine motor skills involved in pencil grip and writing neatly are a crucial part of developing other fine motor skills in children, and also assists in the development of their hand-eye coordination.
The ability to hold a pencil is not innate or instinctual. It is a skill that must be taught, nurtured, and supported as a child goes through different stages of motor skill development. Below, we’ve provided an overview of the different forms of dysfunctional pencil grip, but it is also essential for adults to remember that children develop at their own pace, and that every child works through stages of developing their grasp. Be sure to recognize what type of grasp is normal for each age group. This knowledge will help you to provide the appropriate developmental support that a child needs to keep developing their pencil grasp.
1.1 Why does incorrect grip happen?
Incorrect pencil grips may develop for many different reasons. These reasons are often straightforward, and very easy to correct in children. One mistake that parents and teachers may make when observing a child who is writing is making the assumption that grasping a pencil is a “natural” skill that a child will develop when they are ready. The human body is very capable of learning to grasp and use a pencil, but the use of this tool is anything but instinctual. Pencil grasp is a skill, an essential skill, that adults should monitor and help their child to develop.
When a child develops an incorrect pencil grip, they are most often doing so for very practical reasons. Children enjoy scribbling and coloring, and when they enter daycare or school, coloring, scribbling, and writing becomes an essential part of their day. Children who develop an incorrect grasp are often finding the best method they can to ensure they can do what they are asked to do, while compensating for an underlying problem. If a child finds it impossible to write with the correct pencil grip, they will find another way to get what they want - leading to a dysfunctional grasp.
It is important that adults have an understanding of what causes an incorrect grip. Understanding the root causes of this challenge can help parents, teachers, and caregivers be more prepared to address them. There are a number of reasons that a child may develop an incorrect pencil grasp:
Weak Finger Muscles
The muscles in an adult’s hands are deceptively strong, and they don’t gain that strength without practice. Small children need the time to develop the muscles in their fingers to be able to strengthen and support writing for long periods of time. This is part of the reason that creative play, coloring, and scribbling are all important. These activities help children to develop the strength they need in their fingers to develop the fine motor control needed for correct pencil grasp, and to carry out many other fine motor tasks
Lack of Coordination
The act of writing can be a very tedious and trying task, and small children with underdeveloped muscles and spatial awareness can suffer from fatigue and frustration fairly quickly. Sometimes, an incorrect grasp is a child’s attempt to compensate for this lack of coordination, providing a way to control their pencil in any way that they can. Though they may not be able to see clearly what they are writing, or write neatly - an enthusiastic child can get some coloring done with an incorrect grasp. Many kids are simply doing what works for them to compensate for their underdeveloped coordination skills
Weak shoulder muscles
Another surprising cause of incorrect pencil grasp is weak shoulder muscles. The muscles of the arms and shoulders are more involved than you might think in the act of grasping and writing, and if these muscles haven’t been built up sufficiently, it can lead to an incorrect pencil grasp.
Using the non-dominant hand
This is not as common as it once was, but many children are encouraged to grasp pencils with their non-dominant hand. Beyond the extra difficulty this adds for a child, it can also lead to an incorrect grasp through a child’s frustration and attempt to compensate for working with their non-dominant hand
Learning from peers
In some cases, children may form an incorrect pencil grasp simply from learning from their peers or siblings. Children are very adaptive, and though they may have observed an incorrect technique, many will compensate to make it work. If a child faces no difficulty with their underdeveloped grasp, they simply may not move on until the next developmental stage. In this case, children often find they have difficulty moving from large, childish writing to more developed, small, and fine writing needed in school
There are many reasons that incorrect pencil grips may develop. The good news is that most of these reasons are very easy to identify and address. When adults learn to recognize the reasons that incorrect pencil grip develops, they will be better-prepared to support children to develop the strength and skills they need to develop.
1.2 Types of Incorrect Pencil Grips
There are a number of different ways that children may grasp pencils incorrectly. It is important to keep in mind that many of these incorrect grasps only become a problem if the child does not develop into the next stage. Children hold pencils in different ways up until the age of six, depending on their developmental level. It is important that caregivers familiarize themselves with these different forms of pencil grips to recognize when they are normal, and when a child may need some support:
Between the ages of 6 or 7, a “correct” pencil grip should begin to emerge, with the pencil being controlled by the thumb, index, and ring finger. To ensure that children develop this grasp, it is important to monitor their development at younger ages to be sure they are improving and moving toward a correct grasp. While it is important to help children to avoid dysfunctional pencil grasps, it is also crucial that their caregivers recognize that there are different, normal stages that a child will go through before achieving the correct tripod grip.
1.3 Consequences of Incorrect Pencil Grip
Children who form an incorrect pencil grip may face issues with their fine motor skills and with writing in the short- and long-term.
When it comes to writing, children may struggle with:
Writing requires a lot of muscle tension, strength, and precision. When a child develops a dysfunctional pencil grip, their hands may become fatigued quickly when writing, coloring, and creating
Incorrect pencil grip can lead the muscles of the hand being tired out much faster than a correct grip
Trouble writing neatly
With different incorrect grasps, a child may have trouble writing neatly because they lack the fine motor skill, because the position of their hand covers the letters they are writing, or because they are hesitant to develop because of the symptoms above
Fine motor skill development
Learning to write and work correctly is a critical building block in the development of many fine motor skills. Children who develop an incorrect grasp may face continual fine motor skill problems with their writing, and use of small tools
2. How to help kids cultivate correct pencil grip?
It is very important that you review your child’s pencil grip to determine if they need support in learning or not. The skills developed at this age will serve your child their whole life through, and helping to ensure they properly develop their fine motor skills will be a building block for other skills later on.
There are many techniques and devices that you can use to aid the development of a correct pencil grasp. To choose the correct method, it is important that you carefully consider how and why a child is developing an incorrect pencil grasp, and to then choose the right supports that will help them to correct it. If you have noticed a child grasping a pencil incorrectly, there are many ways you can begin to address the problem.
2.1 Learn to recognize correct pencil grips
Children go through many phases of development as they fine-tune their motor skills and learn to work efficiently and neatly with a pencil. It is important that parents, teachers, and caregivers learn to recognize when these grasps are a normal part of development, and when a child has begun to develop a dysfunctional pencil grasp
2.2 Identify which type of pencil grip your child is using
Children who develop or maintain a dysfunctional pencil grasp do so for a reason. It is important that you identify which form of incorrect grasp your child is using, and some of the reasons they may tend toward that style of writing
2.3 Work with your child to determine the reasons and their comfort level
There are many reasons that a child might develop incorrect pencil grasp, and observing your child while using a pencil is one of the best ways to determine what the issue is. Quite often, practice is the main concern when it comes to dysfunctional grip. Weak muscles or underdeveloped coordination are often involved in dysfunctional grip. Unfortunately, children with incorrect grip often tend to suffer from fatigue, discomfort, and frustration with writing - which may discourage children from the type of fun, free-form coloring and scribbling that will help them most
2.4 Fun activities that develop skills
Beyond writing and working with a pencil, there are a lot of things you can do to help a child to develop their coordination and fine motor skills, and to ultimately develop a functional pencil grip. Some activities to try include:
◆ Crafts and painting: Doing small crafts, and encouraging children to paint can be a great way to help them get use to the movements and coordination involved in pencil-writing
◆ Playing with Playdough: Playing with playdough is an excellent way for children to develop the strength and coordination in their hands, forearms, and shoulders
◆ Rewarding with stickers: Kids love stickers. Finding a sticker book that asks a child to place stickers carefully on the page will help them to develop their hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness on paper. As a bonus, stickers make an excellent reward system for kids that are working hard to develop their pencil grasp
2.5 Find a specialty pencil grip that you can add to your child’s writing tools
Many children who are exhibiting problems related to incorrect pencil grip can be helped by fining them special pencil adjusting grips that can be added to their writing tools. These grips can help children to ease their discomfort and feel more at ease as they practice their grasp
Children develop at different paces, and it is important to let children flourish when they are ready. But, when it comes to developing certain critical life skills for children, there are windows of time in which developing certain skills is essential, and serves children to develop the skills needed for their next big step. If you’ve noticed that a child in your care is developing a dysfunctional pencil grip, it is important to remember that with some support, attention, and the right tools, you’ll be able to help a child develop a correct grasp in no time.