The right age to hold a pencil/crayon to write

by Vasanti Jirge

What is the right age for children to start learning to write/hold a pencil or crayon? Someone once told me that children's fingers are not developed enough to hold pencils/pens and write until the age of 5 years. Is that true?

Over here in India I've seen many nursery schools (for ages 2-4 years)make children learn writing with crayons and color big pictures and also expect the colors to stay withing the outlines. It was shocking at first when I saw my daughter being given all that to do, but we had to comply with the school's curriculum. I changed her school to a different one which is a little light on writing work.

A lot of schools here put too much burden on children and parents are to blame because they want trophy children which is why they send them to kindergarten schools from the age of 2 years!

This is a great website with a lot of useful information. The playdoh exercises that you have shared with everyone is a very old practice in Indian villages and towns where mothers gave their toddlers real dough to play with to develop their fingers.

Comments for The right age to hold a pencil/crayon to write

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the right age...
by: OT Mom

Good question, and your comments about trophy children are spot-on!

Little kids are always going to try and copy their parents/older siblings, so there is little we can do to stop them from grabbing a pencil or crayon to scribble at an early age. However I think there are 3 important things to keep in mind:

1) Let their pencil grip develop naturally as their gross and fine motor skills develop (in other words, don’t correct their immature pencil grasp to mirror that of an adult). See pencil grasp development for more details.

2) Don’t let coloring and drawing be their only fine motor tasks – little kids should be exposed to a range of activities that will strengthen little hands and improve dexterity - playdough, scissor cutting, beading, making collages, sand play...

3) I strongly discourage writing at an early age, because it takes away the opportunity to be laying a strong foundation of gross and fine motor skills. Definitely not before the age of 5! Keen learners can practice letters and words by writing in sand or on a blackboard, rather than at a desk with paper and pencil. I know many will disagree with me, so this is just my opinion!

Hope this clarifies things!

PS thanks for the fascinating fact about bread dough being used in Indian villages for the same purpose as our modern playdough!

by: Anonymous

"No Child Left Behind Legislature" in the U.S. is putting pressure on schools and parents to have children engage in tasks that are developmentally incorrect. Children are being pressured by parents to know their letters and numbers at 2 or 3 and trace letters but they don't potty train their children until they are 4, What a mixed message that is.
I do not think children should be writing until the age of 5-5..5. The later the more successful the children will be to write. The more successful they are the more interested they will be come. I am a special educator teaching delayed 2-3-4 year olds and the pressure is ridiculous for these children to perform. All this pressure is going to cause emotional damage that will be a problem later in their lives.Stop rushing these kids and enjoy them.

Which crayon is best? Small or fat
by: Anonymous

Which crayon is best to practice pencil grip at age 3?fat or skinny crayons

when is the right age to teach a child writing
by: Anonymous

i personaly think that children should start learning to write at the age of 2,the earlier the better lets give them an oppotunity we have never had.

fat or skinny crayons?
by: OT Mom

I definitely recommend the fat ones.

I use fat crayons, pencils and felt-tips for all the kids struggling with fine motor skills.
Even older kids can benefit from using fat crayons if their fine motor skills are poor.

For yourself try manipulating a thick darning needle and compare that to working with a thin, small sewing needle - this gives you a "feel" of what it feels like for kiddies when they have to use a thin pencil when they are not ready for it.

It is really tiring and then they don't concentrate on what they are drawing/writing as all their energy goes into holding the crayon.

starting too early
by: OT Mom

Dear Anonymous Mom
I agree that is fantastic to give our kids the things that we never had - but not everything we have is good for them at an early age.

Technology is wonderful, and kids love computers, tv games, and movies, but letting them have too much, or too early in their lives will preclude the learning of other, more vital, life skills.

I feel the same way about letting kids read and write before they are ready. There are a few baby geniuses out there, but most of our kids need to develop and grow their gross and fine motor skills in a developmentally appropriate way.

Let them experiment with crayons and paper with no pressure, as a small part of a larger exposure to all sorts of developmentally appropriate activities - like finger painting, playdough, sand play, water play, building blocks, scissor cutting, construction toys, dolls, and so on. Let them master the drawing of simple shapes before moving onto letters and numbers.

These things all develop the brain as a whole instead of letting writing/reading skills develop at the expense of other, vital, skills.

Thanks for posting!

i like it
by: manori

your ideas are very good.i think if i follow them,my 2 and half child will study very soon,

Holding a pencil
by: Anonymous

My grandson is 5 and in VPK. He is ahead on everything except printing...he does not grasp his pencil very well. Nothing is physically wrong with him and he is quite good in other areas of "handiwork" , if I may use that phrase. His sweet teacher has been encouraging him to try and under her care, he is beginning to write his name. We practice at home also. He is going to do just fine, but until I read these comments, I was beginning to get worried. Thanks to all for for your wise input!

The right age to hold a pen/pencil / crayon
by: Angie Yamomy

My yadaughter is 16 months old, she holds pens, crayons and pencils and writes on paper .....which no problem,my daughter in law started giving her writing utensils early, it started at church she gave her a church bulletin and a pen to keep her busy....this turned into a daily routine now my yadaughter really enjoys writing , coloring (scribbling) activities!!

Writing comes later ...
by: Ereshkigal

My child is learning slow, but we live in a small european country so learning system here is different.

Kids start nursery (we just call it kindergarten)even at ages 1 or less not because parents want trophy collectors. They simply need to work and government needs to take care of the kids of working parents - so public kindergartens. We also believe in socialization which starts with little tots solving their problems together. They don't write letters, they are learning to recognise them at the age of 4. 2 or 3 yearolds practice essential stuff: stacking, pencil and brush holding. Drawing straight lines, circles, zigzags, drawing from left to right from up to down. That's the basics of graphomotorics and how it should be. If your child can't hold a pencil properly, why forcing him to write at all? Let him practice first. Also: Big round pencils for tots, triangular ones for older ones to practice correct grip. Stabilo Woody 3 in 1 is a perfect tool for that - it is a crayon, pencil and a water color all in one.

Switching hands.
by: Anonymous

My son who is one month shy of 4 still switches between his hands. How do I understand if he is a left handed or right handed.

I would like to mention that he was exposed the writing instruments only an year ago.

Thank you in advance for the response.

Simple Crochet Stitches to improve finger dexterity
by: Anonymous

My daughter and her family are living in Germany, not military. Their young son started school in their preschool. They asked my daughter to come and help teach the children simple crochet. The chain and the single crochet back and forth to help with finger dexterity. It helped the children to control their fingers and hands, which helped with their writing. There was young boy in the class that had trouble sitting still and listening with nothing to do with his hands. The teacher allowed him to sit and crochet during listening time. It helped him to be able to listen and keep still.

Re switching hands
by: Tracey

Dear Anon re switching hands,
Thank you for your question. There is no set age at which we can say that children develop definite hand dominance; however it is usually established by the time they start formal schooling.

The best thing for kids is

1) to be exposed to a variety of hand and finger activities so they can develop strength and dexterity in their hands - that way they won't be swapping hands because their hands are tired. Check out the fine motor activities on my site for ideas - lots of playdough is a good place to start!

2) to have lots of opportunities to develop bilateral coordination skills (using both hands together in gross motor tasks as well as fine motor activities such as threading and beading) AND midline crossing skills - in this way, the child learns to use each hand on either side of the body. We don't want the child to use their left hand on the left side of the body and the right hand on the right side of the body - the child needs to be able to comfortably and efficiently use the dominant hand on the "other" side to develop mastery of that hand.

So - lots of fine motor activities (preferably not with crayons), lots of midline crossing and bilateral activities should help your son to develop a dominant and "helping" hand. However, if you and/or the teacher remain concerned that he is behind his peers, or if you don;t see an improvement, then please seek an occupational therapy assessment ASAP.

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