As children grow and learn about their world, their hands develop from the simple patterns of holding on, to the very complex skills of manoeuvring pencils, doing buttons and cutting out.

In order for children to use their hands in a skilful way, it is important that their early years are filled with rich sensory experiences.

We all accept that not all children walk at the same stage.  This is also true of holding a pencil in a way that is efficient.  Showing or telling children the right way won’t be enough.  Their little hands have to be ready by being active, playing and exploring a wide range of motor activities.  They need to have had enough fine motor play to have learnt how to control the small muscles of the hand that help us to write.

What can you do

Activities that involve “pinching” are excellent, like using clothes pegs to peg around the ice-cream container

  • pinching play dough to make pots or roll a dragon and pinch spikes down its back
  • using tweezers to pick up small items as a race
  • using spray bottles to water the plants
  • any type of cutting activity.

Try and encourage lots of vertical drawing and painting at an easel as this sets the child’s wrists and hand in the same position needed for writing.

Pathways to pencil grip

Most children don’t just pick up a pencil for the first time and know how to use it.  It is common to observe young children holding their pencil in a variety of ways as they gradually learn to adapt their hands so that they can draw and write more fluently.  To move through the stages requires the development of better hand use and is supported by more foundation skills and experience.  Not all children will move through all the stages.

  • More fine motor play
  • More experience
  • More finger and thumb strength.
  • More control of the small hand muscles.
  • Better control of pressure.

Left handed children

Writing using your left hand is a completely different experience to using your right hand.

If you are right handed, try using your left hand and analysing the differences.  If your child is using her left hand, she will need to develop the same foundation hand and body skills that have been discussed earlier.  But because we  live in a right handed world, they might need a little more help in developing a comfortable efficient grasp.