It’s not uncommon for children in early elementary to really struggle with handwriting. Not being able to write well can demotivate children, make them feel stupid, or cause them to dislike school.
But did you know that handwriting problems are often connected to the way your child holds a pencil? If your child arrives at kindergarten holding a pencil incorrectly, it usually takes a while to correct this grip, which, in turn delays proper handwriting and can cause the serious problems above.
In other words, problems with handwriting often begin several years before kindergarten. They're often several years in the making.
You may remember that your child’s doctor began testing his or her pincer grip around a year old. These muscles in the thumb and pointer finger are crucial to holding a pencil correctly.
Just like any other muscles, these muscles require development. Teaching your preschooler how to hold a pencil correctly can ultimately serve to facilitate proper handwriting and encourage active learning.
Here are five ways to teach your preschooler to hold a pencil correctly.
1. Shorten writing instruments
Most children naturally use their whole hand to hold a pencil in a five-finger grip. While it “works,” this grip makes developing fine motor control more difficult.
Take your preschoolers crayons or writing instruments and break them into one inch pieces. These shortened writing instruments will force your child to use the pincer grip.
2. Pinch and flip
Here’s a fun exercise that will teach your child correct pencil position.
Place a pencil on a table with the lead side at your preschooler. Ask her to pick up the pencil using her thumb and pointer finger and flip the pencil back to rest in the “webbing” between those two fingers.
3. Hiding items in the hand
You can also encourage correct pencil grip by getting a small ball or toy and placing it in your preschooler’s palm.
Now just ask him to grip that item with his ring and pinky fingers while writing with proper pencil position. This develops your preschooler’s hand muscles and teaches him what it feels like to hold a pencil correctly.
4. Drawing Exercises
If your child’s fine motor skills are underdeveloped, holding a pencil correctly will be uncomfortable. And anything that is routinely uncomfortable is unlikely to take hold.
But if you can make it fun and keep the focus on the fun, it will minimize this discomfort. Have your child play connect-the-dot or color on or within the lines while holding a pencil or crayon correctly.
5. Fun Exercises
Encourage these muscle developments by encouraging activities that require hand movement—like cutting with safety scissors, stirring batter, or pinching tweezers.
If your child enjoys the outdoors, have her hold a walking stick or sort leaves, pinecones, or other items with a pincer grip.
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