A Poor Pencil Grip Can Affect Handwriting

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Some children hold the pencil with a poor pencil grip. This affects their ability to write neatly and at a reasonable speed.

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 during writing because the ring and little finger are curled gently into the palm, giving the hand stability. Read more about correct pencil grasps here.

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Be careful not to confuse an immature pencil grasp with a poor pencil grip. Children need to move through various developmental stages of holding a crayon or pencil before they are ready for handwriting. Read more about pencil grasp development before you start.
Have a look at the photo gallery below to see a variety of real-life poor pencil grips, find out WHY poor pencil grasps develop, and how to help children who have poor pencil grasps.

Compensatory Pencil Grasps.

With these poor pencil grips, usually one of the Essential Bases for Fine Motor Skills is not well developed and the child is thus compensating for their lack of skills.

incorrect tripod gripThis child has a very stiff (static) pencil grip. The pencil rests on his ring finger, his middle and index fingers are on op, and his thumb tends to lie alongside the pencil. This child may be compensating for weak and uncoordinated hand muscles.
inefficient pencil graspAlthough this girl uses a tripod grip on her pencil, her ring and little fingers are held stiffly out to the side. This is very tiring and can lead to aching hands while writing. She would benefit from learning to tuck those fingers in to make her hand more stable – look at Finger Exercises for ideas.
wrapped thumb pencil graspThe “wrapped thumb” is a common sight. Sometimes this is a bad habit learnt from using pencils and crayons that were too thin in early childhood – thick crayons are much better for young children. However, poor tactile perception, a lack of good shoulder stability or weak hand muscles can also lead to a wrapped thumb pencil grip.
tucked thumbInstead of wrapping his thumb, this child has tucked his thumb into his pencil grip, and holds the pencil very tightly. Again, poor tactile perception, a lack of good shoulder stability or weak hand muscles may be contributing to this grip.
tight pencil graspWhen a child is compensating for poor tactile perception or weak shoulder muscles, he may hold the pencil very tightly, which results in an inefficient pencil grasp.
awkward pencil graspThis pencil grasp is inefficient, as the pencil is gripped tightly at the tips of the index finger and thumb, and stands straight up in the air instead of resting in the space between thumb and finger. This pencil grip blocks the finger movements needed for good handwriting, and is very tiring.

Distorted pencil grasps:

These children hold their pencils in extremely distorted ways. Most of them did not have the opportunity to go through the age appropriate stages of developing pencil control, either because their social-economic backgrounds deprived them of early fine motor experiences, or because a well-meaning caregiver tried to make them hold the pencil with 3 fingers before they were developmentally able to do so.

When a child is forced to hold a pencil with 3 fingers before the shoulder, arm and hand muscles are developmentally mature, this can result in an awkward, poor pencil grip. My own fine motor story describes how this happened to my son.

incorrect pencil graspThis child is holding her hand right off the table while she writes, and has very little control over her pencil.
Description of imageThis boy is using an adapted fisted pencil grip.
awkward pencil graspThis child is balancing the crayon between her index and ring fingers with the middle finger on top. The thumb is not being used at all.
awkward pencil gripThis very tight pencil grip balances the pencil between the thumb and index finger; the other fingers are tightly balled into the palm of the hand.

Try some Fine Motor Activities to help improve a poor pencil grip.

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