When can a child properly hold a pencil? Explanation & exercises

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  April 25, 2021

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When a child learns to write in school, a lot of attention is paid to teaching the correct pencil grip.

It is important for a child to hold the pencil correctly because only then can they write smoothly and effortlessly. In addition, it is one of the most important motor skills that preschoolers must learn.

From when can a child properly hold a pencil?

From group three onwards, a child can normally hold a pencil well. Teaching a correct pen grip to young children is important because it is difficult to correct later. Anyone who learns the correct pen grip as a child will bear the fruits of it throughout his / her life.

You can stimulate the correct pen grip by means of games and products. In this article, you will learn all about the correct pencil grip and when a child is able to hold a pencil properly.

I will also explain to you why it is so important for a child to hold a pencil correctly, and what it takes to write (properly).

What stage precedes learning the correct pencil grip?

You may find it helpful to start at the beginning and understand exactly what precedes being able to hold a pencil properly.

Before a child can learn a correct pencil grip, it is important that children in groups 1 to 3 learn a 'functional' pen grip.

A functional pen grip is a combination of thumb, index and middle fingers.

You speak of an unripe pen handle when a child is still holding a pencil in the palm of the hand and making the movements from the wrist, arm and trunk. Thumb and finger movements are not involved.

There is a transition pen handle that is an intermediate step to a mature pen handle. With this transitional grip, the pencil is held with thumb and finger, but the movements still come from the wrist and elbow.

With a ripe pen handle moves the pencil from the thumb and fingers. We speak here of a three-point grip that ensures relaxed and neat writing.

What skills are required to be able to hold a pencil properly?

But what skills does a child need to be able to hold a pencil properly?

Writing with a good three-point grip requires fine motor skills so that extremely precise movements can be made with the fingers.

But before a child is that far, an enormous development precedes this. And this whole development is necessary to eventually arrive at the correct pen grip.

In order to hold a pencil properly, a body must be able to:

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As you can see, it takes a lot of skills for a child to develop the correct pen grip.

If just one of these skills doesn't develop quite as it should, it can lead to a spasmodic pen grip that will cause discomfort.

When can you start practicing with a pen grip?

To learn a correct pen grip, a preferred hand must first be developed, and this is done during lateralization.

Lateralization is the phase in neuro-motor development where the left or right hemisphere of the brain takes over.

It is wise to let young children come into contact with the correct pen grip (the three-point grip).

However, a good pen grip is only possible if the thumb can be placed opposite the fingers and the child is actually ready for this new challenge.

When the three-point grip is offered, it is a new challenge for kids who are ready for it. The development of each individual child should be the measure of understanding whether this challenge is presented at the right time.

If that is the case, as a parent you can compliment your child, so that your child becomes motivated to learn the pen grip.

However, if a child is not ready for this challenge, then it is better to postpone learning this skill for a while.

What is a good pen grip?

But what exactly does a correct pen grip look like?

With a good pen grip, both the index finger and thumb grip the pencil smoothly. The middle finger has a supporting function, creating a three-point grip.

The pen is precisely controlled by subtle movements of flexion and extension of the muscles and small twisting movements of the joints.

There are kids who hold their pencil just above the pencil tip. This causes them to bend over too far because they want to make sure they can continue to see the pencil tip.

However, these children should learn to handle the pencil just above the sharpened area (about 2 inches above the tip for right-handed people, and 2,5-3 cm for left-handed people).

Of course it is also possible to write with a different pen grip, but then it is not the most efficient way.

For example, compare it with techniques for kicking a ball: instead of kicking the ball with your instep or the inside of your foot, you can also shoot with your toes.

But the latter way is by no means the best football technique and can even lead to injuries.

At what age can a child properly hold a pencil?

A good pen grip is ideally taught at a toddler age. By the way, when a child learns bad writing habits, they are difficult to change later on.

A child in grades 3 to 5 should be able to hold a pencil properly, so between 6 and 8/9 years old.

It is essential to continue to lead by example, but also remember that a good grasp should not be 'demanded'. It is also important to know that there are many different ways to write.

The bottom line is that children have legible handwriting, don't take too much time to write something down and do all of this in a relaxed way.

Holding a pencil or pen correctly remains important to pay attention to throughout primary school.

Why is a correct pen grip so important?

When a child uses to hold a pencil properly, he / she will benefit his / her whole life.

A correct pen grip will ensure that a child writes comfortably and neatly and prevents them from getting tight or a tired arm.

Many people argue that being able to write well is not as important today as it used to be, since we use the computer for almost everything.

However, holding a pen or pencil correctly and being able to write smoothly is just as important as long as writing plays a role in our society.

Writing fluently and neatly is a prerequisite for a successful school career.

If a child has not mastered the correct writing technique, it often cannot achieve the required writing pace.

They will then start writing quickly and their handwriting will soon become illegible. This can in turn lead to difficult learning distance in high school, or to illegible answers in exams.

Read also: When can a child cut? Milestones at 3 and 4 years

What are the different stages in learning the correct pen grip?

From when do you start practicing writing?

The sooner a child learns the correct grip, the sooner holding a pencil properly becomes a habit.

The correct pen grip is essential for good writing development, because a correct pen grip contributes to the development of good handwriting.

Completely going through the different stages of development is necessary in order to learn.

A child can only learn to write properly if it has gained sufficient movement experience during the various development phases. This is necessary to determine whether a child is left or right handed.

If held properly, the pencil will have a profound and positive impact on writing education.

The good thing is that a child can then concentrate on learning the letters and not have to spend time thinking about how to properly hold his or her pencil.

What are the conditions for learning to write?

Discs is a complicated process that requires a number of important prerequisites.

Fine motor skills

Fine motor skills are necessary for developed hand preference, correct pencil handling and pencil control by fingers and thumb.

Eye motor skills

Eye motor skills are essential for fast reading of the rules, visual memory and distinguishing shapes.

Spatial orientation

The spatial orientation is necessary for understanding: what is below, what is above, what is right, what is left, and a correct leaf distribution (shape and size of letters).

Eye-hand coordination

Eye-hand coordination is about the cooperation between the eyes and the hand that writes, so that this hand can be steered in the right way.

Static equilibrium

The static balance is important for a relaxed and correct writing posture.

Rhythm sense

A sense of rhythm also plays a role because you can regard writing as a rhythmic process.

Finally, senso-motor skills are the relationship between the motor response to sensory perceptions.

A child must also show motivation to learn to write and be able to focus.

Tips about games that can stimulate a good pen grip

To stimulate a good pen grip, it is important to stimulate your child's fine motor skills. This concerns exercises for the shoulder, elbow, wrist and the mobility of the fingers.

  1. Have your child put materials from the table in a container with tweezers or pliers.
  2. Teach your child how to shuffle cards or to make two piles by placing the cards one at a time on each pile.
  3. Play wheelbarrow with your child.
  4. Let your child practice opening and closing zippers.
  5. Alternate 'crazy' pen grips with the correct pen grip, and do this with different materials (a thick pencil, thin pencil, a felt-tip pen, etc.) and on different surfaces.

To keep a child motivated, it is important that they enjoy learning to write. Therefore, try not to force your child too much.

You can make a game of writing and let your child practice with the pen grip in various ways. If your child is not able to learn the pen grip in a pleasant way, wait a while.

Wonderful toys to practice fine motor skills toys with locks of toys with doors!

Tips about products that can stimulate the correct holding of a pencil

Of course there are also a lot of products on the market to encourage the proper holding of a pencil or pen.

Below I list a number of these useful products.

Pencil Grips for children

Child learns to hold pencil properly with Pencil Grips

(view more images)

The special hollow design of the Pencil Grips for children makes the handles very breathable. In addition, the handles are non-toxic and made of 100% high-quality silicone.

The set consists of six different designs, which makes it suitable for various age groups. The grips will ensure that the writing position and technique are progressively improved.

In total you get 14 grips. The beginners should use the three-finger pencil grip (3 pieces). Then they can switch to the two-finger pencil grip (2 pieces).

If that goes well, the child is ready for the handle style pencil grip (2 pieces).

Then the 'cartoon' grip (2 pieces) can be practiced and finally you can use the small fish or fish head pencil grip (2 pieces). If this is not a problem, grip is no longer necessary.

Check the latest prices here

Stabilo ergonomic mechanical pencil for right-handed people

Little boy learns to write with the Stabilo Easy Start pen for right-handed people

You can of course also go for an ergonomic mechanical pencil.

The Stabilo mechanical pencil has special versions for left and right-handed users and is available in four color combinations.

The pencil is mainly suitable for beginning writers and has a nice non-slip grip zone. The mechanical pencil is suitable for students from 5 years old and has an innovative design.

It is very child safe, because the pen consists of only two parts; no dangerous small particles!

The pen was designed taking into account the anatomical conditions of the hand of preschoolers and beginners. Because the marker is robust, it is perfect for learning to write.

Hand fatigue is prevented with this pen and you get a matching ergonomic sharpener.

In principle, this mechanical pencil can always be used, because it stimulates a good writing technique.

View more images here (in front of Amazon.com)

Read also: When can a child play hopscotch? Everything about this motor milestone + play tips

Always something to do for the holidays or rainy day?

Play Choice now has the ultimate activity book collection, with over 60 pages of fun coloring pages and educational puzzles.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Speelkeuze.nl is a content marketer, father and loves trying out new toys. As a child, he came into contact with everything around games when his mother started the Tin Soldier in Ede. Since 2016, he and his team have been creating helpful blog articles to help loyal readers with fun play ideas.