The first thing I want to mention is that there is no PERFECT pencil grip. What we really want is a FUNCTIONAL grip!! This means we need to look at three things:
1.) Does the child’s hand get tired?
2.) Is the child’s pencil control poor?
3.) Is the child’s speed very slow?
If you answer “No” to these questions then there is no reason to adjust the child’s pencil grip as it is functional for them.
However, if you answer “yes” to any of the above questions then we need to look at what is causing the problem and how best to address it.
Different types of grips:
There are two main grips that are acceptable
- Tripod grip (three-fingers)
- Quadropod grip (four-fingers)
The most important aspect of a good grip is that there is an open web-space between the thumb and fingers as this allows for the fingers to move freely.
Most common “poor” pencil grips observed:
- Thumb wrap
- Thumb tuck
- Lateral grip
- Fisted grip
Reasons for poor pencil grips:
- Low muscle tone and ligament laxity.
- Poor strength and endurance of finger muscles.
- Poor proprioceptive or tactile processing.
- Poor ulnar stability.
- Poor shoulder stability.
- Poor wrist extension.
- Poor forearm positioning.
- Poor midline crossing:
How to facilitate better pencil grip:
1.) Improving muscle tone and shoulder stability: Doing exercises before any pencil tasks, painting tasks, colouring tasks – wall push ups; chair push ups; copying overhead arm movements.
2.) Improving muscle tone and strength in the fingers: playdough before writing; finger flicks;
3.) Opening up the web-space: tearing paper; opening pegs (with fingers in a circle); tweezers (with open web-space).
4.) Wrist extension: wrist extension exercises; inclined board; paper positioning to improve wrist position.
5.) Forearm movements: flipping beanbags with a spatula; making a mark on their arms to remind them to keep forearm flat on the table, paper positioning to encourage forearm movements.
6.) Poor ulnar stability of hand (ring and little fingers splayed out): holding a coin in the bottom two fingers while holding a pencil.
– Cutting holes in socks to help with using the correct grip:
– Using triangular pencils
– Placing stickers on pencils to demonstrate finger placement.
– Using elastic bands to position pencil correctly in the webspace.
– Using pencil grips.
Some suggestions for reducing pencil pressure:
– Paint with an eye-dropper.
– Pick up fragile objects (Cornflakes, mini-marshmallows, small pieces of foam) with tweezers, tongs or fingers, without breaking or denting them.
– Drawing or tracing on thin tracing paper.