Eight Tips To Encourage Correct Pencil Grip...
Before I share some tips to support correct tripod pencil grip with Junior Infant, I want to mention that like every other stage of a child's development there are different stages of pencil grip, children start exploring their pencil grip as early as 3 months old. It is important not to force a child into holding a pencil a certain way before they are ready. This could actually have a negative impact and create a dislike of writing and colouring for a child. The chart below shows the development of pencil grip and each are completely normal at different ages. Some children will be comfortable using the trip-pod grip from the start and some children will progress from one grip to the next at a different pace.
Pencil grip – On Arrival in Junior Infants assess pencil grip as soon as possible. Have a list of the children who do not hold the pencil using a tripod (3 finger grasp) or quadrupod (4 finger grasp). You will need to teach these children the correct grip and if necessary offer them extra strategies to remind them how they should hold their pencil. Naturally, during written activities their mind will be on the task and they may forget about correct pencil grip, so remember to start each writing lesson with a reminder to everyone about correct trip-pod grip. They will still forget, because the may be swapping colours during a lesson and again engrossed in their task so you will need to walk around, correcting again and again, possibly for the first few months. Occasionally I do a "Spot Prize" which involves me spotting a child who is holding their pencil correctly, stopping the whole class and making a big fuzz about how well the child is holding the pencil and they get a happy face stamp on their hand. The correct grip is thumb and index finger pinching the pencil, resting the pencil on your middle finger know as the tripod grip. This is the better grip as it allows the most movement of the fingers and the least muscle work, which results in better control over the writing tool. Some children will also use a quadruped grip where they hold the pencil with the thumb, index and middle finger, resting on the middle finger. I continue to encourage the tripod grip, but I think it is ok for them to choose whichever of the two they are most comfortable with. They often move to the tripod as they get older. Here are some tips to encourage correct pencil grip.
The most affective way to get children to develop their pincer grip is to do lots of fine motor activities. This will be far more effective than giving them a piece of paper and a pencil. Try and incorporate lots of activities that encourage the use of the pincer grip. Read my post on "Building The Muscles For Better Handwriting" for lots of fun activities.
Pompom – holding a small pompom with the ring and baby fingers encourages children to keep those two fingers tucked snug into the palm of the hand.
Peg – holding onto the peg works the same way as the pom pom but offers a more sturdy, solid grip and you can just the size of the pegs to suit the size of hand. This peg method works well for older children.
Mark the pencil - A simple way to remind children to hold their pencil in the correct position. 1 inch from tip for right handed, 1.5 inch for left handed children.
Grips - I found these really fantastic moulded pencil grips last year in Mr Price but they don’t seem to have them this year. They worked wonders for helping children grasp the pencil correctly. Particularly the children with tiny hands.
Self correcting grip - The video below shows a super handy way for children to remind themselves how to hold their pencil. The child in this video arrived to school with a claw grasp and this trick really helped him as he struggled to remember how to get the tripod grip.
Using vertical surfaces make it easier for children to use proper pencil grip as it offers support for the hand. Using a large ring binder on a table creates a nice tilted surface for writing and help the children who tend to hook there hand too much.
Choosing the the correct tools - Tripod pencils are a great way to encourage correct grip. These are a selection that you may be familiar with but the Rahmqvist pencils are way ahead of the rest because you’ll nearly get the year out of them without having to pair them. The Stabilo ones are good and have little cut outs for children to grip but don’t cater for every size hand, children with smaller hand found it difficult to grip correctly. The red Faber-Castell ones, you probably recognise but the lead wears away quickly and they to be paired often.
Note To Parents...
Be aware of the developmental stages of pencil grip, don't push your child to the tripod grip before they are ready. As I pointed out in Tip 1 the most important thing you can do for your child is offer plenty of opportunity for fine motor activities. Do lots of colouring activities using different tools, including different sized pencils and crayons. Little crayon bits encourage the pincer grip as they offer less space to wrap their hand around. You can make them yourself by melting old pieces of crayons in small moulds in the oven and allowing them to set in the new shape. However, once your child starts school it is important that you support your child by reinforcing the correct pencil grip at home during homework and play. Ask your child's teacher if they use any tips or rhymes used in school, so you can use the same ones at home.
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