Learning to write with the correct pencil grip is much easier than trying to correct an incorrect pencil grip as children get older.

You can start putting this important skill into practice before children begin school. Activities to strengthen hand and wrist muscles and encouraging your child to grip a pencil with the correct fingers will teach them the correct pencil grip.

Water painting – teaching children to use the correct grip

Water Painting This is a great outdoor activity that requires very little effort on your part. All you need to do is provide your child with a container of water, a paint brush and then let their creativity run wild.

The aim of this activity is to get your child to use their pointer finger and their thumb to grip the paintbrush. I use this activity frequently with my students because it is an important step to teaching the Tripod grip – a commonly taught pencil grip.

Here is a picture of the Tripod grip:

Tripod Grip
Crocodile's MouthI like to refer to the thumb and the pointer finger as a crocodile’s mouth and pretend that the paint brush is coming out of the crocodile’s mouth.

To remind children to use the correct grip I ask, ‘Is your brush in the crocodile’s mouth?’ This prompt can then be used when children start to use a pencil.

Strengthening hand and finger muscles

Children need to develop their finger and hand muscles and coordinate the movements of these small muscles with their eyes. These are commonly referred to as ‘fine-motor skills’.

Spray BottleSimple activities that will develop your child’s fine-motor skills are:

  1. Playing with Lego, blocks, or any small toys that they need to manipulate or push together.
  2. Playing with play dough – roll it into a ball or into a long sausage shape, chop it, flatten it or squeeze it. Encourage your child to use their imagination. Click here for ideas to stimulate your child’s creativity when playing with play dough.
  3. Encourage your child to dress and undress themselves. Pyjamas that have buttons down the front are a great way to incorporate fine-motor development into your child’s daily routine.
  4. Give your child a spray bottle of water and go outside. Let them spray anything they see – trees, flowers and the walls. Encourage them to use both hands; squeezing the lever will build the muscles in their hands.

Experiment with the different types of spray – you can use a fine mist or a straight jet of water. I particularly love this activity because it is very calming and provides an opportunity for children to appreciate their natural environment.

Getting vertical!

Getting VerticleDrawing or painting on vertical services teaches important habits.

The two habits that stand out for me are good posture and wrist extension. Standing encourages good posture because children are standing with their back straight rather than ‘slumped’ over a piece of paper. It also forces them to extend their wrist, which helps develop important muscles in the wrist.

Spraying water from a spray bottle, using easels or large blackboards and water painting on vertical surfaces are ways to improve posture and wrist extension.

Click here for more information about children writing on large, vertical surfaces.

A trick to help your child use the correct grip

pencil-grip-7A trick I often use with children who are not using the correct pencil grip is to get them to hold something small against the palm of their hand with their little finger, ring finger and middle finger.

You could use an eraser, the lid of a marker or a 50c coin. This then forces them to only use the pointer finger and thumb to grip the pencil (the crocodile’s mouth) and rest the pencil on their middle finger.

I hope you find my tips and ideas easy to follow and productive.

Sharona Edwards

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