- demonstrates how letters are formed
- promotes a good pencil grasp and good posture
- encourages regular practice
The time-tested ergonomic way to hold a pencil is the tripod grasp. Most children can learn how to place their fingers in the tripod position, but if they have established another grasp, the tripod may feel awkward at first. Changing any habit is difficult, particularly when it involves muscles and coordination. Some children can change to the new grip within a few days, while others need a month or so. Adults tend to take even longer before they can consistently use the new grip.Finger positionThree fingers—the long finger, the thumb and the index finger—form a tripod to hold the pencil, as shown in the illustration. Index Finger RestsMany people put extra pressure on the index finger, hyperextending the first joint. (Check for pressure in the knuckle.) The tip of the index finger should rest on top of the pencil. Fingers Bend, SlightlyAll five fingers should bend slightly. (Some people pull their fingers into a fist. Some hold a pencil with their thumb straight.) A ball should be able to fit inside the hand. Training ToolsIt can be challenging to keep the fingers in the tripod position, but 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. Position of the HandThe underside of the forearm and the thumb should line up. Some people hook the hand toward the body, pushing the elbow away from the body.) Spend some time practicing on vertical surfaces, such as an easel or paper taped to a wall, since it is natural while working vertically to hold the hand up and drop the elbow down. Position of the PencilThe pencil eraser should point toward the should, however the pencil position is not critical if the hand position is good. This rule is most helpful for left-handers, since it allows a better view of the freshly written words and the hand does not smudge the words. How does the Hand Feel?Understand the amount of tension needed to grasp the pencil:
- Have the child pretend to hold a small stone tightly in their tripod fingers as you count together to ten. Release the pretend stone and discuss how your hands felt while holding the stones.
- Have the child pretend to hold a cooked pea gently in their tripod fingers and count to ten. After releasing the pretend pea, describe how your hands felt while holding the pea, How can a relaxed hand make writing easier?
Tension or bearing down may improve as the child’s fine motor skills develop. Encourage playtime activities that use the pinching or grabbing motions—think of stringing beads, rolling clay, making a tower of toothpicks. More ideas and activities are available in PlayPacks.
Motivate children to want to practice. Draw, write, play tic-tac-toe—choose an activity the child enjoys so they look forward to practicing with you. Practice regularly (daily is best). Five minutes is fine for a five-year-old child, and ten to fifteen minutes is plenty for a child who is nine. Adults can practice whenever there is a spare moment.
Hold the Pencil FlierOver the years, we have sent out a flier with each of our store orders: Hold the Pencil. The flier provides the same information as shown on this webpage, but appears less “wordy” due to the formatting. The flier is now available in packages of 25. Give to parents of new students or members of your group. See it in our store.
Pencil Gripper for Training“At first, my son said that the pencil with the pencil gripper was uncomfortable, so I explained that it was uncomfortable because he was familiar with the other way of holding a pencil. I explained that as he got accustomed to the new grip it would feel better. The only time that I had him use the pencil with the gripper was while we made drawings together. 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 pencil that had a gripper on it a few more weeks, until he told me, “Mom, I don’t need this any more. I hold my pencil like this all the time.”