Did you know that the proper pencil grasp is an important step towards proper development? 

A child may present with a pencil grasp that is considered unproductive for a variety of reasons:

The child may have an atypical grasp due to lack of core strength causing a weak torso and unstable shoulder girdle, as well as poor coordination in the hand muscles. This will interfere with the correct grasp of writing tools.

The child may have an underdeveloped grasp; such grasp may be normal for a much younger child. This will also compromise the child’s ability to complete age appropriate written tasks both currently and in the future. 

An unproductive, atypical, or delayed pencil grasp can lead to poorly formed letters, number, and difficulty using proper pressure being either too light or too hard. At times it can even lead to quick hand fatigue and pain.

Some students use pencil grasps that look unusual; but they may still be functional. Sometimes, with older children, despite using an unusual pencil grip style, written work is produced with speed and precision that is consistent with classmates. Such grasping patterns are very difficult to correct/change, meaning that such intervention is often not necessary. 

Recommendation strategies during written tasks:

  1. Confirm that the student does not have corrective lenses, a vision screening may be necessary. 
  2. Teach the student the correct way to hold a pencil 
  • Visual demonstrations may not be enough. Assist the child in holding the pencil as close to perfect as possible
  1. Photos of the correct pencil grasp can be taped to the student’s desk or posted in their classroom for a visual reminder/cue
  2. To maintain a mature tripod (three-finger) grasp, encourage the student to occasionally use his/her ring and little finger to hold a cotton ball or pompom within the palm to insure those fingers stay down.
  3. Provide the child with a 20 degree angled writing surface:
  • Clip the paper onto binder (with the highest part of the slant facing furthest away from the student).
  • Writing on an inclined surface can minimize fatigue and improve proper gripping of a pencil/pin/crayon
  1. Ensure that the student is sitting with proper posture using the 90-90-90 rule (hips, knees, and feet bent at a 90-degree angle) 
  • Place a footrest down for the child’s feet if needed
  • The child’s writing surface should be no higher than his/her elbow
  1. Experiment with different writing tools
  • Offer larger or triangular shaped pencils and crayons
  • Use of broken crayons or small markers/pencils are also a good way to facilitate a proper tripod grasp

Other helpful strategies:

Develop hand strength (activities such as using a hole punch, working with tweezers or tongs, and performing ball squeezes are simple things most people have in the home)

Increase/encourage craft making time and frequency

Always allow for practice (coloring/drawling) 

Practice isolated finger touching (touching the thumb to each finger in a sequence. 


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