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How Improper Pencil Grip in Children Can Affect Joint Health and Writing Speed

During their formative years, children develop habits that will affect them for the rest of their lives. While this can be a good thing – hygiene, exercise, nutritional choices are all great, positive habits to instill early – poor habits can be highly detrimental. When your child is first learning to write, poor pencil grip can dramatically affect their joints, their writing speed, and their overall handwriting quality. This can directly affect their ability to communicate clearly in the future, as well as hurt their grades in school.

With proper training and therapy, your child can get started on the right path to proper pencil grip, and if they’ve already started to see problems from an improper grip, it’s never too late. Occupational and physical therapy can help them change their course forward, improving their handwriting and helping them in school and beyond.

How to improve pencil grip in a child, pencil grip development, pencil grip occupational therapy, fine motor skills, fingers, hold

Pencil grip development

Children usually begin drawing and writing with a palmar grip, holding the pencil the way they might hold a carving tool, in a closed grip. When using a pencil-like this, they typically use their whole arm and shoulder to write, as fine motor skills haven’t developed quite yet. From here, often children will use a digital pronate grip, where the pencil is held with all four fingers and the thumb, with the back of the pencil going directly back and the whole hand facing downwards. Again, shoulder and arm are engaged and the wrist isn’t involved much.

From here, the tripod pencil grip will usually develop – where the pen or pencil is gripped between the index and middle fingers and resting on the thumb. During each stage in grip development, there are potential problems that can arise. Some children do not simply move on to the next type of grip, as fine motor skills might develop more slowly. Other children have impairments to wrist movement or finger strength that need to be addressed. Regardless of what the functional impairment might be, it needs to be worked on through therapy as quickly as possible.

How to improve pencil grip in a child

With so many potential difficulties for a child, you have to first address why your child isn’t holding their writing instrument correctly. This can be done simply by observing, but often an occupational therapist will better be equipped to make this determination. While they will work with your child on-site, you can implement some strategies at home to improve pencil grip and prevent problems down the line.

Practice with tongs

Children are naturally curious as it is, and they love to play with instruments and tools that are “grown-up”. Grab a set of tongs from your kitchen and have your child practice picking things up with them. This encourages the tripod grip and helps them develop both fine motor skills and finger strength and dexterity. You can also use the chopsticks that are designed for children that are attached at the bottom. Whichever you choose, it will help your child tremendously improve their overall dexterity and confidence with a pen.

Bubble wrap

Another activity that improves their tripod grip and dexterity is to have them use those fingers to pop bubble wrap. This one is exceptionally enjoyable as well!

How to improve pencil grip in a child, pencil grip development, pencil grip occupational therapy, fine motor skills, fingers, hold

Implementing occupational therapy

When home strategies aren’t enough, or if you’re truly concerned about your child’s pencil grip and how it is affecting them, occupational therapy can be tremendously helpful. Pencil grip occupational therapy will help your child develop the skills needed to write clearly, confidently, and without damage to their joints. It can eliminate pain associated with writing and improve their abilities in school as well.

Key Takeaways:

  • When fine motor skills develop more slowly it will take longer for a child to advance to the next grip stage.
  • Improve pencil grip with bubble wrap and tongs to strengthen fingers and develop stronger fine motor skills.
  • Occupational therapy can help tremendously with your child’s pencil grip.

No matter the degree of grip problems, it’s critical that you address them through occupational therapy and at-home practice. Infinite Therapy has pencil grip occupational therapy that can help reverse the effects of poor pencil grip and improve your child’s potential writing ability. Contact us today for an assessment and to see just how much an improved ability to write can benefit your child both at school and in general.