A New Gripper - The Thumb Grip


We have a new gripper in our store, called The Pincher Grip...BUT, I dislike associating the word "pinch" when holding a pencil, so I'm choosing to call it The Thumb Grip. 

The Thumb Grip (my name) or The Pincher Grip (it's real name)

The Thumb Grip (my name) or The Pincher Grip (it's real name)

Grip Starter Set

Grip Starter Set

This gripper is similar to the Crossover Grip, but does not have the "hood". I think it does a good job of discouraging the crossing over of the thumb and is more accommodating for children with long fingernails. It just might replace the Crossover Grip, at least that's what I'm finding. The manufacturer sees it as a transition from the Crossover Grip  >  Pinch Grip  >  Pencil Grip. I believe that children can go from Pinch Grip (Thumb Grip) to no gripper.

Our popular Grip Starter Set now comes with a Thumb Grip. (We replaced the Crossover Grip with the Thumb Grip.)

The Crossover Grip

The Crossover Grip

Much More Than "Pretty Writing"

"Don't worry, he will write on a computer."

Children with poor motor-skills need training in handwriting and should not be told to simply forgo the pencil and use a computer to write.

A bright teen came to me for help. He wrote only on the computer and found that there were times when it was necessary to write by hand. His lack of handwriting experience hindered him with illegible and slow writing, but more significantly, he had problems composing without a computer. He was unable to mentally outline an essay—he had always used cut and paste to organize his thoughts.

Poor motor-skills can improve with age and practice. As a young child, this teen should have received help with his fine-motor and gross-motor development, and the standard of perfect penmanship should have been loosened. His caring parents would have helped him, but they were told, "Don't worry, he will write with a computer." As it was, this bright and motivated young man saw the need to catch up and simply worked on it himself. For some, an occupational therapist trained to work with handwriting can make the difference.

The computer is a fine tool for writing, but not when it keeps us from exercising our brains. Handwriting practice that leads to a legible script is a terribly important skill for growing minds. It is a necessary skill that should not be taken lightly.


Drawing instruction is not only for

the artistically talented child.


Handwriting instruction is not only for

the child with a flair for penmanship.


Handwriting is an Art!

Speech, writing, grammar, spelling, vocabulary—the parts and pieces of Language Arts. They fall into the categories of creativity and craftsmanship:

  • Creative—stories, poetry, vocabulary
  • Craft—reporting, instructions, handwriting, spelling

Handwriting is fundamental.

Handwriting is a craft.

Handwriting is an Art!

Drawing and Writing Together

Tyler, age 5 — This drawing illustrates an event. Tyler can expand on the story with his voice or with written words.

Tyler, age 5 — This drawing illustrates an event. Tyler can expand on the story with his voice or with written words.


Nurture a love of writing.

Teach children to write by simply talking and writing with them after they draw. Drawing motivates a child to practice and actually helps develop their writing skills.

Here's how we do it:



Visual and Verbal


Ask the child to tell you about their drawing. Prompt them with questions, such as, "Who is throwing the ball?" "Who is the boy with the bat?" "The fence looks familiar—where is he playing?" 

Some children rarely speak, while others may be very vocal. Talking about a drawing can help both. The quiet child's drawing may become the foundation for a conversation. The talkative child's drawing can be used to help guide and focus their verbal skills.


Making the Connection

Demonstrate that the letters people make on paper are the words we speak. Sitting beside the child, ask them to TELL you about their drawing. As they tell you, WRITE their words down, then READ their words back to them, pointing to the words as you read. 

Show them how to write their name.


Introduce Letters

As the child shares their drawing, show them how to make and pronounce the first letter of the subjects in the drawing. So, if they have drawn a bird, write the letter "b" while pronouncing the letter.  You might even add "fl" for "flying." (Include blended letters, like “th”, "br" "wh".)

Use lower case letters—that's what they will use the most.

Plain paper is fine—there is no need to use guideline paper at this stage.


Introduce Words

When the child shows you their drawing, choose a word and show them how to correctly form and pronounce each letter in a word. "Here's how to write the word "ball"—b-a-l-l." 


Spacing—explain that letters are grouped together in a word.

Plain paper is fine.


Introduce Sentences


After drawing a picture, demonstrate how to write a short sentence, such as “We like to play ball.” Highlight the basic parts of a sentence:

  • The first letter of the first word in a sentence is a capital letter.
  • Spaces separate words.
  • A period is at the end of the sentence.

Introduce guideline or lined paper.

More Sentences

Copy Work, Practice

Matthew, age 7 Drawing makes handwriting practice fun!

Matthew, age 7
Drawing makes handwriting practice fun!

Tiger Lesson is in Draw Write Now, Book 7

Tiger Lesson is in Draw Write Now, Book 7

Practice writing two to four short sentences. The sentences can be about their drawing or they can write a memory verse. They are simply copying sentences.

Draw Write Now lessons have four short sentences. The sentences may be changed, but keep them short and simple. The focus is practicing their handwriting skills, not vocabulary, composition or spelling.

Have the child critique their work.

  • Ask them to choose their best letters or words.
  • Point out things they can improve.

There's no need to erase and do over, it is simply a time to become aware for the next time they practice.

Matthew, age 7

Matthew, age 7

Is the child reluctant to practice writing? Work for success, but push them a bit. If you know they can write one sentence, have them write two short sentences. Lesson to lesson, increase the amount of writing.

Use the coloring time as an incentive — remind them that you’ll bring out the crayons (or color pencils, watercolors, etc.) after the sentences are finished.


Telling a Story


Encourage the child to write about their drawing. Oftentimes, their background drawing will prompt them to write. 

This is not a time to stress careful handwriting! It is not spelling or vocabulary-time. Let them write. Allow them to focus on their thoughts, story and ideas.

Does the child love to write, but spelling or grammar needs some refining? After writing and reading their story, help them select a few sentences.  Correct any spelling or grammar errors in those sentences.

EXTRA: Have them copy those few corrected sentences onto a fresh sheet of paper using their best handwriting. 

Grammar or Spelling


Ask the child to write all the nouns in their drawing (boy, bird, fence, grass, ball.)

Another time, have them write all the verbs (fly, hit, swing, stand, look, throw) or all the adjectives (fast, sunny, happy, green.)

Words that are spelled incorrectly can be added to a spelling list to practice later.



Have the child write a paragraph about the subject in their drawing.

  • Introduce the subject. (The boy loves playing baseball.)
  • Write several sentences to support the introductory sentence. (The first pitch was thrown. He swung and the ball went far into the outfield. He ran so fast around the bases.)
  • Write a closing sentence restating the first sentence. (He wants to play baseball every day of his life.)

Here's how one mom teaches: she brings out the Draw Write Now set of books, announce the theme, such as “spring." Her three boys flip through the books, each choosing a drawing that makes them think of spring—a rabbit, a bird and a boat. They draw their pictures, using it and the springtime context as the prompt for their paragraph.

It is fun to draw and write with a child.

Hold the Pencil

We send this booklet, Hold the Pencil Like This, in every order we ship. Get it with an order or download it now...FREE (pdf, 493 pdf)

It was hard to hold my pencil like this at first, but I kept trying. Now I do it all the time.
— Sarah, first-grade student
It was easy. My daughter changed her grip within two weeks.
— Carol, mom of a 5 year-old


Some children easily transition to the Tripod Grasp. For others, it is a challenge to keep the fingers in the tripod position. There are a variety of tools available to help keep the fingers in place. They are temporary tools, much like training wheels on a bicycle. See them in our store.

Training Tools

Training Tools

How hard is it to change the grip?


Some children use the tripod grasp naturally. Others may simply need to be shown and encouraged to practice.


Some children might benefit with a triangular shaped pencil as a little reminder to keep the fingers in a tripod position. Also, there are grippers that slip onto a pencil to make it triangular.

Triangular-shaped pencils help establish the tripod grasp.

Triangular-shaped pencils help establish the tripod grasp.

Extra Training

Grippers with indentations or cups for the fingers help those who have a hard time keeping the fingers in place.

Pencil Grippers help keep the fingers in position.

Pencil Grippers help keep the fingers in position.


The Twist n' Write Pencil takes a different approach on holding the pencil and helps those who have established a grasp that is harder to change.


"The new grip will probably feel uncomfortable at first."

At first, my son said that the pencil with the pencil gripper was uncomfortable. I explained that he was familiar with the other way of holding a pencil and that as he got accustomed to the new grip it would feel better. He used the pencil with the gripper only when we sat down together to draw. I ignored how he held the pencil at other times of the day.

After about six weeks, during a time when he was drawing on his own, I noticed that he held his pencil (no gripper) using the tripod grip. I said, “Look how you are holding your pencil.” He looked down at his hand and said, “I didn’t mean to do it!” We practiced together with the gripper a few more weeks, until he realized that he really didn’t need it anymore.

The gripper was temporary—like using training wheels on a bike.
— Kim Stitzer, mother of a five year-old

Handwriting Styles

Which handwriting style should your child learn?

Teaching a child to write their name and first words is fun and easy, but before you get too far along, be aware that there are a variety of handwriting styles.

Four children wrote the word "Tiger." They were all taught the same handwriting style.

Four children wrote the word "Tiger." They were all taught the same handwriting style.

Ask Your Local School

Primary or elementary schools agree on one handwriting style to teach—at least they should. If your preschool child is eager to write or your child is already attending school, but you don't know which style is used, contact the local school office and ask.


Homeschool parents—you get to decide! It's nice to find a style that appeals to each child, but I've found that it makes sense to stick to one style for the family.

The Left-Handed Child

With any handwriting style, there is a slight modification that can help a left-handed child write more smoothly. It's simple—pull the pencil toward the hand when making horizontal lines. For example, a right-handed writer crosses the letter “t” from left to right. For the left-handed, the letter is crossed from right to left. The following letters are affected:

Lowercase letters: t, f
Capital letters: A, E, F, H, I, J, T.

Manuscript Only?

Handwriting styles are designed with a manuscript (print) and a cursive (linked) form. Progressing to the cursive or linked form is the goal, as it is the quicker or more fluid form of handwriting. Today, many children get handwriting instruction and practice for only a few years at best and may not get instruction in cursive. I encourage teachers and parents to include regular handwriting practice into sixth grade. Keep practice time short—ten to fifteen minutes. For older children, practice time may be only once a week.

Begin with Cursive?

Yes, it is fine to start in cursive, and most children love it. When Marie was a child in the 1920’s, all her handwriting was in cursive. Manuscript was introduced later and used for labeling maps or posters.

A handwriting style is a carefully designed, efficient way of forming letters and numbers.

Each style has it’s own character or fits certain needs. There is no "correct" handwriting style—although publishers of handwriting programs or language arts programs might feel that theirs is the best! A handwriting chart or some other reference on how letters are formed (letter cards with the starting points and arrows, alphabet strips, iPad app) is a good reference tool to have available.

Simply be aware of letter formation and model it for your children or students. When given no instruction or example to follow, bright children can come up with some terribly awkward and cumbersome ways of making letters!

Oh, So Unique!

Whichever style is chosen, the personality of each child's handwriting is evident. 

One child may space letters wide. Another might slant their letters less than the child sitting next to them. Some tend toward narrow lettering. Then, there are those who have a confident flow to their writing. 

Our uniqueness shows in our handwriting. We all develop a style.

Training and Practice

Handwriting programs have instructions and books and gadgets and apps. For many people, it is not necessary or practical. The main thing is to help the child memorize the letter formation (there are many fun ways to do this) and have clear standards and expectations for their practice time.

These first and second-grade children learned to write together. The papers are from the end of their school year.

These first and second-grade children learned to write together. The papers are from the end of their school year.

Amanda's writing is wide.

Amanda uses wide spacing in her words and letters.

Joshua's writing has almost no slant.

Joshua's writing has a slight slant.

Tyler's letters are narrow.

Tyler has narrow letters.

Elisa's writing flows.

Elisa shows a confident flow to her writing.

Examples of Handwriting Styles


A handwriting style is a carefully designed, efficient way of forming letters and numbers. Each style has it’s own character or fits a certain need. The most common styles are shown here.

New American Cursive, handwriting style

New American Cursive, handwriting style

New American Cursive

I like New American Cursive. This form of cursive is simple and clean. The child learns to write using cursive—they start with cursive. There is no manuscript form, although, the capital letters F, Q, T, and Z are made like manuscript capital letters. Another option would be to start a child with Zaner-Bloser Continuous Stroke Cursive.

Cursive — New American Cursive

Handwriting Without Tears, Printing - Handwriting Style

Handwriting Without Tears, Printing - Handwriting Style

Handwriting Without Tears, Cursive - Handwriting Style

Handwriting Without Tears, Cursive - Handwriting Style

Handwriting Without Tears

Handwriting Without Tears is a simplified style, without a slant, and has a rather blocky feel to it. Developed by an occupational therapist, the program includes many tactile products for writing readiness and an app for memorizing letter form. It is popular in the United States, but I find it too simple. It is not beautiful and the cursive doesn't flow.
Printing - Handwriting Without Tears
Cursive - Handwriting Without Tears

Modern Manuscript (D'Nealian) - Handwriting Style

Modern Manuscript (D'Nealian) - Handwriting Style

Modern Cursive (D'Nealian) - Handwriting Style

Modern Cursive (D'Nealian) - Handwriting Style

Modern Manuscript and Cursive (D'Nealian)

Modern Manuscript (D'Nealian) starts with slanted manuscript letters with the intent to transition easily to cursive writing. As in cursive writing, the lower case manuscript letters are made with one continuous stroke and most have "tails" (see the letter "a".) Modern Manuscript gained popularity in school districts in the United States in the late 1980's. Some find it challenging to teach (the program includes auditory instructions) and dislike the manuscript "b" and "k." I like it, but tend to teach it with modifications.

D’Nealian - manuscript and cursive chart
D’Nealian - manuscript only

SIMPLE Zaner-Bloser Manuscript - Handwriting Style

SIMPLE Zaner-Bloser Manuscript - Handwriting Style

SIMPLE Zaner-Bloser Cursive - Handwriting Style

SIMPLE Zaner-Bloser Cursive - Handwriting Style

Zaner-Bloser Continuous Stroke (Simple)

 This style is neither too challenging or too simple. Zaner-Bloser was the dominant handwriting style in the United States until Modern Manuscript (D’Nealian) gained popularity and this “continuous stroke” or “simplified” Zaner-Bloser was introduced. The continuous stroke applies to the manuscript letters—the pencil is not lifted to form a letter, as with the original Zaner-Bloser style. The cursive was simplified and most notable, the letter "Q" was changed to look like a letter "Q" instead of an odd number "2." Continuous Stroke makes sense—it is the closest thing to how Marie taught manuscript letter formation. When she taught cursive to first-graders, she used A Beka — that's what the private school chose.
manuscript - uppercase & lowercase

Zaner-Bloser Manuscript, Handwriting Style,

Zaner-Bloser Manuscript, Handwriting Style,

Zaner-Bloser Cursive, Handwriting Style

Zaner-Bloser Cursive, Handwriting Style

Palmer Manuscript, Handwriting Style

Palmer Manuscript, Handwriting Style

Palmer Cursive, Handwriting Style

Palmer Cursive, Handwriting Style

Zaner-Bloser (Original) & Palmer

The original Zaner-Bloser style and the Palmer style are not used as much now.

manuscript - uppercase
manuscript - lowercase
cursive - uppercase
cursive - lowercase

Peterson Handwriting

Peterson includes a transition between printing and cursive—it's called Slant Print. I don't have a sample to show here, but did include links to the site. Peterson's theme is "the difference is rhythm." The cursive letters end without a curve, much like the Italic styles. This program includes a depth of information, prompts and help. It seems like a lot of work, to me. 
Slant Print

Italic Handwriting Styles

Italic is so lovely and appealing! There are a variety: Portland Italic, Barchowsky, New South Wales, Victorian, Queensland.
Italic charts (click “Chart” in the left-hand column)
Barchowsky Fluent

Handwriting Style, Italic
Handwriting Style, Italic

Handwriting Style, New South Wales
Handwriting Style, New South Wales

Handwriting Style, Queensland
Handwriting Style, Queensland

Handwriting Style, Victorian
Handwriting Style, Victorian

Make handwriting practice fun. Startwrite Handwriting Software loads most of the popular handwriting styles on your computer, so you can create custom practice sheets.

Make handwriting practice fun. Startwrite Handwriting Software loads most of the popular handwriting styles on your computer, so you can create custom practice sheets.

Posture While Drawing or Writing

Standing While Drawing & Writing

Writing or drawing while standing at a vertical surface—an easel, white board, or any vertical surface in a house (wall, fridge, glass door)—has these benefits:

  • the hand and forearm fall naturally in the correct position
  • arm movement is free—The heel of the hand is not “planted” in one position. When the hand is “planted”, movement is restricted to only the fingers.
  • downward strokes come naturally, which is similar to the top to bottom direction used when writing letters

Take the toddler out of the highchair so they can stand while they color and scribble. Let the four year-old draw a dog on the garage wall. Give the 7 year-old an easel. Challenge the 12 year-old to draw while standing. 

An easel has a slanted surface, which is more comfortable to work at than a straight vertical surface. Make a simple easel by leaning a board against a wall. This could be an old bulletin board or whiteboard. (Stabilize the board at the top where it touches the wall and block the bottom.)

Sitting While Drawing & Writing


Most of our drawing and writing is done while sitting at a table. The arm rests on the surface of the table, stabilizing the hand and arm movement.

When sitting:

  • feet are flat on the floor (or a step stool or a stack of books)
  • knees are at the same level as the hips
  • arms, bent at the elbow, rest on the table top
  • shoulders are relaxed, not scrunched up toward the ears

Maintain the hand/wrist/arm position that is presented while standing. Watch for “planting” of the hand—the hand and forearm should rest on the table top and provide stabilization for the arm, but not constrict movement. The non-writing hand stabilizes the paper.

A child-size chair and table helps tremendously, if available. Adjustable tables and chairs are available for the growing child.

Relaxing While Drawing & Writing

Just as we like to see a child relaxing with a book, we love to see a child lounging with a pencil and paper. A relaxed posture while writing/drawing has it’s place and time. Simply remember to include plenty of practice time in the standing and/or sitting positions. 

Infants as well as 12 year-olds benefit from “tummy-time”. Therapist recommend that children lay on their stomach while propping their upper body with their arms. This position may be awkward for writing, but is fine while watching TV, reading or playing with small toys.

Outdoor activities like swinging from bars on a jungle gym, climbing a rock wall or walking like a crab develop the muscles and skills needed for good posture.