Monday, March 16, 2009

Pencil Grip: How important is it?

Kids hold pencils in all kinds of ways these days. Truthfully, if the way a kid holds a pencil works for them, I don't think an unconventional grip is anything to worry about.

Most teachers still teach kids the conventional grip: pinch the pencil between the thumb and index finger, then use the middle finger for a "couch" for the pencil to rest on. The thumb, index finger and middle finger should form the three points of a triangle, or the fingers should form a tripod around the pencil. The remaining two fingers (ring and pinky fingers) relax in succession, or in a row, below the middle finger.

Since children begin writing in kindergarten, the muscles in their hands may not be strong enough to hold a pencil "correctly" yet. Getting primary grade kids, K - 2, with weak hands and wonky grips to write can be a challenge for parents. For young children, it can be literally painful and exhausting to write for any length of time.

If your child has difficulty holding a pencil using the "tripod," here are a couple fun activities you can do to build strong hands and develop enthusiastic writers.

1) Set up a place for your child to play with play dough and modeling clay on a regular basis. Any kind of molding and shaping makes muscles in the hand stronger. For added fun, have your child roll out and form the letters to spell new spelling words with the modeling clay. As the hands get stronger, the pencil will get easier to hold.

2) If your child already holds the pencil in some unconventional way, but it doesn't seem to cause a problem, don't worry about it. There are more ways than one to do most things, right? But if your child complains that writing is hard or boring or distractions come easily because writing is just no fun, use the magic of tape.

  • Show your child how to hold a pencil with the thumb, index and middle fingers (the tripod).
  • Then tape the two middle fingers together, side-by-side (they love this part!), to help remind them to keep their fingers in place. You may want to tell your child's teacher you are taping fingers at home and ask if she will do the same at school for consistency.
  • If your child consistently holds the pencil correctly for 21 days, the pencil grip will change, and so will the writing attitude.
Note: The new habit may take longer to develop if your child forgets to change the grip at school, and you may still get requests for tape long after the grip is under control, just for the fun of it.:-)

If you have questions or experiences about pencil grip, or you have anything else on your mind about your kids' learning, please leave a comment, and I'll get back to you.

Enjoy the ride!

Trish Wilkinson