Pencil Grip Tip!

If your kindergartners (or pre-schoolers, first graders, children, fill in the blank) are anything like mine, MANY of them are still developing a proper pencil grip.  Or actually, they have developed an improper pencil grip, and you are trying to re-train their hands.

I find every year that I have four or five kids with really awkward grips that inhibit their writing.  Writing is so important, and complicated, that the last thing I want getting in their way is the pencil!

My school’s occupational therapist is amazing, and she shared this tip with me last year.  You can give a child a cotton ball or small ball to hold with their middle, ring, and pinky fingers.  This way those fingers have a job and they are less likely to creep up the pencil.  Once those three fingers are holding the ball, the pointer and thumb can take control of the pencil.  Hint:  I actually think the cotton ball works better, but the “fun” balls are enticing and kids want to use them.  So keeping a few of both on hand is probably a good idea.

I have found that this simple trick really helps many of my students develop new gripping habits. I hope it helps yours as well!  What are your pencil grip tips and tricks?

25 Responses to Pencil Grip Tip!

  1. Lisa L September 17, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    Dumb question perhaps?? My middle son has had an awkward grip forever, and we’ve tried correcting it, managed to get him down to two fingers on the pencil instead of 3! My question is, why does “correct grip” really matter? He actually has the neatest handwriting of any boy I’ve ever seen at his age (4th grade) or older! Does it matter how he holds the pencil?

    • Rachel September 18, 2012 at 12:14 am #

      I have the same question! I still use a three/four-finger grip on all of my writing instruments and I am in my twenties. All of my elementary teachers tried ferociously to correct me, saying it would majorly inhibit me if I didn’t use the correct grip. But the only thing I’m inhibited from is using tri-grip pencils, etc, comfortably. I can see why teaching a child not to clench the pencil in their fist is extremely important…but what’s the deal with the two-finger grip?? How does it actually improve handwriting? Just curious 🙂

  2. Teaching Ace September 18, 2012 at 1:11 am #

    Thanks so much for commenting! First, the two finger grip is only one of TWO correct grips – a three finger grip (with the middle finger holding the end of the pencil) is also considered “correct” in the world of occupational therapy. (I am not an occupational therapist, but I got this information from some images produced by “Handwriting Without Tears”). I actually see more three finger grips than anything else, and that is fine. I also have several kids every year that REALLY struggle with writing tools. They come in holding the pencil with their index finger crawling near the eraser, or they hold it with a full fist. These are the grips I try to work on, because they genuinely inhibit the child’s writing. I often see that these same kids either over clench, like you mentioned, or have very very weak grips and struggle with the strength to move the pencil around. These are the kids I work with. I personally believe that if you are managing without trouble, there is no reason to intervene. I actually notice adults all the time without traditional pencil grips (I know, why am I bothering to notice that?) If it is not inhibiting, then no worries. But when it does, this trick can help. I am sure there are varying opinions, but that is how I look at it. Thanks again for reading!

    • S September 28, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

      Thanks for your post, and even more so for this comment! I clicked on this because my step-daughter has been using a slightly strange 3-finger grip, and we tried and failed to correct her last year, telling her how much it would inhibit her writing. But this year (she’s now in Grade 3) while she still uses her own way of holding the pencil, her handwriting has improved drastically and is very neat, which left me wondering if it was worth the effort to try to change it. I will keep an eye on her progress, but I won’t try to fix it if it’s really not causing any problems.

      • Teaching Ace September 28, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

        I’m so glad it was helpful! Take care.

    • Felicia King August 8, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

      Thanks so much for the post! I wasn’t sure I would actually find something on teaching a young kid to hold the pencil, just googled and I found this helpful site of yours. My 7-year old son is entering the 2nd grade and he is so slow at writing, that is why he never finished his work on time in the 1st grade. At home I see he grips really tight his knuckles almost seem to turn white. I try to show him, but he just goes back to what he is comfortable with. Though it looks uncomfortable, and I think he would write so much faster. He doesn’t say his hand hurts, just goes back to squeezing the pencil.

  3. Teaching Ace September 18, 2012 at 1:36 am #

    Check out this link for images from Handwriting Without Tears. They say right on their site not to bother trying to fix it if it is working – functional is what matters!

  4. Rae October 25, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    OMG… Thank u so much. Read this while doing homework tonight with my Kinder child. instundly worked. even the pressure on his pencil lightened … which is HUGE for him. i cant thank u ennough

  5. Teaching Ace October 26, 2012 at 7:35 am #

    I am so glad it helped!

  6. Sandra December 16, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    My ex-husband’s niece who has muscle weakness in her hands does not do well with the “traditional” grip of a pen/pencil. My ex taught her to hold the pencil between her index and middle finger and hold underneath with her thumb and this worked much better for her. I don’t see the importance of the “correct” grip as opposed to the grip that is better for the child/individual as far as being able to write better. To me it would be less frustrating for the child if they could hold the pencil in the manner that was more comfortable for them.

    • Teaching Ace December 17, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

      I definitely agree that a functional grip is more important than traditional. In talking with our occupational therapist, she suggested trying to correct grips that were very awkward in order to prevent muscle fatigue and long term damage to the arm and hand. However, we both support and encourage “alternative” grips for students when it seems to fit them and their needs better. This tip has been effective for me in helping students to move from very awkward grips toward something that helps them put thoughts and ideas down on paper. But, as always, one size does not fit all!

    • Julie St-Louis January 4, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

      I have been told by the specialist at school that this is the adapted grip and it is fine to use it.

  7. Nicole April 5, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

    Where did you get the little green ‘fun’ ball?

    • Teaching Ace April 6, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

      I am lucky that our secretary has ordered some things like that for us. However, I imagine you could easily find it at a Dollar store, or even in Oriental Trading. But keep in mind, a cotton ball works just as well!

  8. Jenny August 13, 2013 at 11:54 pm #

    I used cotton balls for years to correct pencil grips but have found that marbles work better as they really need to hold them – where as a cotton ball tends to stay there if they forget the correct grip

  9. Jeanette January 29, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    Thanks for the clear picture and neat trick. I also have an “incorrect” grip (I’m 38) and it does not inhibit me from writing good (middle finger and thumb grip). I actually write better and legibly compared to other people. I am now teaching my boys to write and this was really helpful.


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