Humans are not born with the natural inclination to hold writing tools with a proper grip. Believe it or not, the proper pencil grasp actually has a name: the tripod grip. Though the tripod grip is preferred, the quadropod grip is also a common and accepted grip.
The tripod grip utilizes three fingers to secure a writing utensil: the thumb and forefinger directing, with the utensil resting on the middle finger. The quadropod grip uses four fingers working together to stabilize the writing tool.
The tripod grip is the ideal grip for proper letter and number formation and writing, and this grip is a skill that must be modeled, taught, and corrected. When there are too many fingers involved, or if the stance is improper, writing will not be as easy as it can be. And writing is a difficult skill even without the grip!
But how do you teach kids how to properly hold a writing utensil?
Before you even place the tool in the child's hand, determine which is his or her “strong hand”: whether the child is right-handed or left-handed. Which hand does the child favor when grabbing a block? Cheerio? Juice box?
If you cannot decide or if it seems like the child does not favor one hand over the other, consider asking a teacher or daycare provider if he or she has noticed your child's preference.
When you are ready to introduce the tripod grip, it's pretty simple:
1. Place a writing tool in your child's hand
2. Move the fingers to the proper position, encouraging the child to keep the pinky finger and ring finger on the palm so that the fingers can do their jobs
3. Show the child how to manipulate the tool by moving their fingers more than her wrist
And after your child does a little bit of doodling, coloring, and painting, the tripod grip will become as easy as breathing. It's imperative for parents to play an integral role in instructing early on, with demonstrating, correcting, and modeling.
Check out the grip in the photo above. Would you say this is an acceptable grip? Though it is not the defined tripod grip because each finger is not on the writing tool itself, if the child using the above grip is writing properly and with ease, I would let it go.
Ideally, we want children to be comfortable writing and to teach them proper grip as a starting point.
How do you get kids to write? What other cool and creative ideas do you have to get kids writing? Let us know!
This post is second in a series of 1st Steps to Early Writing:
• Fine Motor Skills
• Teach Grip
• What to Write First