Getting a child to use the correct pencil grasp for writing and drawing is something that many educators and pediatricians seem to encourage parents to worry about. Recently, at William’s four year check up, the pediatrician (whom I absolutely adore) stated that William had an immature pencil grip. He prefers what I call the “modified death grip”, but what professionals call the digital grasp. This is where child pinches the pencil with his thumb and index finger and loosely holds the rest of the pencil under his palm which is facing the paper. So, I immediately went home and made some writing practice sheets of various shapes and line variations. We set to practicing his writing skills everyday.
After about a week my college and professional education kicked in and reminded me that using the correct pencil grasp is developmental and it was ok that my four year old didn’t have a grasp that looked just like mine. After all, I knew that writing practice in preschool seldom involves a pencil and paper. (For more information, read my articles What Writing Practice Looks Like in Preschool and Development of Emergent Writing). I put away the writing practice sheets and got out the play dough, nuts and bolts, coins and piggy bank, and several other fine motor activities. (For more ideas see these posts: Stacking Fruit Loops and How It Develops Fine Motor Skills, Easy Fine Motor Activity For Babies, and Faux Sand Art.) I was confident that William’s pencil grasp would improve proportionately to his overall fine motor skills.
This has not been the case. William is very skilled at many fine motor activities, most of which are ideas I got from my Pinterest boards Motoring Around and Writing for Little Hands. Still, when placed in front of a tracing sheet, or even just a blank sheet of paper, he still prefers the modified death grip. I was having difficulty getting William to transfer the grasps and skills from our fine motor activities to the pencil.
Until one day I saw him using a broken crayon as he was drawing a picture of our cat, where he displayed a near perfect grasp, as seen in the picture on this post. Now I know what to do with all those broken crayons at our home writing center. They are not for melting into cute Valentines! Now when I have William practice formal writing, I have him use a broken crayon…or six, one for each color of the rainbow. Still, however, we mostly focus on activities that strengthen fine motor muscles, but those writing practice sheets come out once or twice a week and his pencil grip and developing and getting better and better.
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