Correct Pencil Grasp

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The correct pencil grasp is essential for good handwriting. Although most experts agree that a tripod pencil grasp is best (with 3 fingers on the pencil), there are subtle variations that may work just as well. The key to deciding whether a pencil grip is the correct one, is to ask whether it is efficient.

An efficient pencil grasp is one that allows the child to write neatly at a reasonable speed without tiring easily. Poor pencil grasps look awkward and do not use the hand muscles efficiently. This results in the child tiring easily and being unable to produce neat handwriting.

It is important for children to develop a mature, efficient, correct pencil grasp by going through the developmentally appropriate stages of various pencil grasps. Please do not force your young child to hold a pencil with 3 fingers before he or she is developmentally ready to do so.

The photo gallery below shows correct pencil grasps that are mature and efficient. Where possible, children’s hands are shown, but an adult hand is also used for illustrative purposes.

correct pencil grip This is the ideal pencil grip with the thumb, index and middle fingers holding the pencil. Those three fingers can move freely because the ring and little finger are curled gently into the palm, giving the hand stability.
mature pencil grip When writing, the last joint of the index finger should be slightly extended.
correct pencip grip As you can see, from this photo and the next: when the last joint is slightly extended, it can stretch back and forth more easily.
Pencil grasp Try it yourself to see the range of motion that you achieve. These finger movements are necessary for good handwriting skills.
tripod pencil grasp This is also considered a mature pencil grasp. The difference is that the last knuckle of the index finger is flexed (bent) instead of extended.
child pencil grasp Compare the range of movement with a flexed index finger to the pictures above. You may also find that your hand tires more easily.
pencil grip with wrapped thumb Some children tend to let their thumb wrap around the pencil. This limits how much the fingers can move and handwriting can be more tiring. This pencil grasp is not ideal.
pencil grasp not ideal Some experts suggest that to have the middle finger on top of the pencil with the index finger is acceptable, with the pencil resting on the ring finger. However, this does limit the movement of the fingers, and children with this pencil grip tend to grip the pencil too tightly, as can be seen by the white joints in this picture.

child using THE pencil grip

A pencil gripper can be used to help your child achieve a mature, efficient, correct pencil grasp. However, it is important to look at why a child may hold the pencil incorrectly.

In this picture, although the child is using a pencil grip, he is still pressing very hard, as can be seen by his very bent index finger. Poor tactile perception and some shoulder girdle weakness could contribute to his holding the pencil too tightly, so I would want to develop those areas too.

Check out these photos of poor pencil grips, with suggestions for intervention.

You could try some hand exercises and finger exercises to improve your child’s fine motor skills and help him to develop a more efficient pencil grasp.

Find out more about the Essential Bases for Fine Motor Skills, which includes a description of the gross motor skills needed for fine motor development.

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