A Guide to Pencil Grip

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

Learn pencil grip by age and hands-on activities to encourage proper pencil grip through play for toddlers and preschoolers.

Every week on social media I host a Q&A and I'm often asked when and how to correct pencil grip. So I decided to reach out to an expert for some tips and tricks. Together Paige at @otmomlife (a pediatric OT) and I teamed up to create the complete pencil grip guide!

RELATED: Looking for more ways to encourage writing at home? Check out Preschool Play Tricks- at home preschool program

As your child develops, they will hold a pencil differently.

When teaching how to hold a pencil (or other writing utensil), it's important to encourage the pencil grip that fits your child's development.

Forcing your preschool aged child to hold a pencil with a grip they aren’t developmentally ready for can lead to avoidance of writing activities as well as poor technique. Take a look at typical pencil grip progression by age courtesy of Paige @otmomlife.

Note: The pencil grasps included in this post share what typical emerging grasp patterns look like during these ages. As with any developmental milestone, every child is different and some variation might occur.


Learning Pencil Grip Through Play-

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To work those small muscles needed for a mature pencil grip, focus on hands-on fine motor play! This will lead to a more natural development towards a mature grasp, rather than constantly stopping to correct your child.

In addition to small muscle, fine motor tasks, provide your child with opportunities for weight bearing through their arms. This builds strength in their hands as well as stability in their wrists and shoulders. Stability in larger muscles will allow your child to eventually control their pencil with just their fingers (instead of moving their whole arm).

Some play ideas to promote pencil grip:

Draw or paint on a vertical surface (slightly higher than shoulder level)

Use an easel or even secure a piece of paper to the wall or window using painter's tape!

Hide beads or buttons in play dough

Roll play dough into a ball and push beads or buttons into it. Ask your child to help remove all the beads.

Use tongs or tweezers to pick up pom-poms

Simply transfer pom-poms using fine motor tools or create a web using a recycled box and yarn for an added fine motor challenge!


These yoga cards are perfect for toddlers and preschoolers! Each pose is illustrated by step so your child can follow along.

Drop objects into a narrow container

Drop or push small objects like buttons or beads into a narrow container.

Thread cereal onto a pipe cleaner

String uncooked noodles on straws or pipe cleaners

Use eye droppers and squeeze bottles in water play

Cut kitchen sponges into small pieces to use while painting


Climb up a slide

Push or pull a heavy wagon or wheelbarrow

Push a sibling in a stroller

Hang from the monkey bars

Lie on their stomach while doing a puzzle

Simply spend time coloring, drawing, and painting together.

Besides showing your child how enjoyable these tasks can be, you'll also be providing a model of a more mature grip pattern. Most kids want to naturally hold their crayon like Mom or Dad!


Recommended writing utensils-

This section contains information provided by @otmomlife.

Oftentimes preschoolers have difficulty making the change from holding their writing utensil with all 5 of their fingers to the more mature, 3 fingered, tripod grasp.

A quick and easy way to encourage a tripod grasp is by offering shorter writing utensils. When you decrease the length of the writing utensil, there isn't room for your child to fit all 5 of their fingers on it. The shorter length naturally suggests for them to use their thumb and index finger to pinch it, causing a tripod grasp.

Some favorite writing utensils for preschoolers:

  1. Crayons or chalk broken in half

  2. Golf pencils

  3. Crayon rocks

  4. Pip squeak markers


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