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For children who have an immature pencil grasp, there are many pencil grips available to help. In this post we will use the term ‘grip’ to refer to a moulded grip that has been put onto a pencil. Whereas pencil grasp has and will be used to indicate the position that the children’s fingers are on the pencil.
If you are not familiar with what a functional pencil grasp might look like then we highly recommend you read our post ‘What is a good pencil grasp?’ before reading on. This post gives a background to pencil grasp development. It provides some ideas on how to help a child to improve the way they hold onto a pencil. The post also gives ideas on how to help children with a very immature pencil grasp. If you are looking for specific activities and worksheets to help children with their pencil grasp then we also recommend our resource Supporting Pencil Grasp Development.
This page provides a discussion on when a pencil grip might be helpful. It also reviews different pencil grips that are commercially available in the UK. All reviews are independent and GriffinOT does not receive payment or endorsements from any companies. As we constantly update our video library we also recommend that you subscribe to our Youtube channel or join our newsletter or follow our Facebook page so that receive notification when new videos are released.
When should a pencil grip be considered?
In my opinion, pencil grips should only be considered for children over the age of five who have received some support to develop their pencil grasp already. They should not be the first strategy that is tried for a child who is having difficulty holding onto their pencil.
For children younger than five it is important is to look at writing utensils that will help to support their finger and hand development first, before giving them a pencil grip. This is also true for children under six who may have developmental delays. Children initially hold onto their pencil with their whole hand, this is called a gross or palmer pencil grasp. Older children using this grasp have not developed the fine motor skills needed to hold onto their pencil with their fingers. These children need more support to develop their hand and finger control. This can be done by working on their fine motor skills. Our book ‘Supporting Pencil Grasp Development’ also provides relevant activities and worksheets.
Helpful supports to use with these children are finger crayons and small pencils. These help the child to improve their finger control and the movement needed to develop their pencil grasp. We discuss them further in the video below.
If the child is holding the pencil with their fingers but their grasp is not mature, you can also try the quadruped and alternate tripod grasp. These grip strategies are all discussed further on our page ‘What Does a Good Pencil Grasp Look Like?’
Lastly, for children who have started to hold the pencil with their fingers rather than their whole hand, but who are still struggling to get the correct fingers onto their pencil, a pencil grip can be tried.
How do we monitor the pencil grip?
It is absolutely essential to ensure that you are monitoring the pencil grip. It is not ok to just give a child a grip and expect it to work. You must regularly check whether the grip is being used correctly. It is also important to check that it is helping. We recommending considering the following points to check if the pencil grip is helping.
Consider the child’s pencil grasp
Has the grip improved the child’s pencil grasp? Does the child have the correct fingers on the grip. All grips should enable children to use a dynamic tripod or quadruped grasp. This means their thumb, index and middle fingers should be on the pencil grip in the appropriate place. Their little and ring fingers should tuck away. Or, in the case of a quadruped grasp, just their little finger will tuck away. You can see pictures of these grasps here. If the grip is not enabling a child to hold their pencil in this way, then it may not be helping.
Is the pencil grip in the correct position? Or has the child moved the grip up and out of the way, so their fingers are still on the pencil? If they have moved it, it usually means the child isn’t using the grip to help their grasp.
Has the child’s pencil grasp changed? Or is the child continuing to hold the pencil with their preferred grasp over the grip? This is commonly seen with smaller pencil grips. The child will just put their fingers onto the pencil how they had initially had them. They won’t have their fingers on the pencil grip. This means the grip is not helping!
Does the child like the pencil grip? In some cases the child might find the pencil grip awkward or uncomfortable. If this is the case they may avoid writing because of the grip. This should be monitored.
Consider the child’s handwriting
Has the child’s writing improved? Or does it deteriorate when they use the grip? Initially there might be a slight deterioration as the child gets used to using the grip. However, the quality of their writing should improve over time.
Has the child’s writing speed increased or decreased? Again, it is expected the child may write more slowly to start with. However, over time the grip should improve their grasp and therefore their speed.
Which pencil grip is the best option?
Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast best option. This is because all children are different and have different needs. Each pencil grip is designed slightly differently and will suit different children. The videos below show pencil grips that we have found to be helpful in a number of cases when working with children who have an immature pencil grasp.
What are the pros and cons of available pencil grips?
Aside from the grips mentioned above, the pencil grip market is saturated. The videos below discuss the pros and cons of other pencil grips available for purchase in the UK. Whilst we do update our videos we are unable to provide an exhaustive list. We also wish to remind viewers that we have not received payment or endorsements from any manufacturers. The reviews are based on the clinical opinion and experience of occupational therapist Kim Griffin.
An alternative option – finger crayons and small pencils
Whilst they are not a pencil grip, finger crayons and short pencils are a good option for younger children. They are also great for children with immature fine motor skills.
Grotto Grip and Elephant Grip
The Grotto Grip is one that I find helpful in most cases. Just as a note, it looks very similar to the ‘Cross-Ultra’ grip but the shape is slightly different. The grip has large enough spaces to give the children some flexibility of where they put their fingers. However, it is moulded enough to ensure that they do have their fingers in the correct position. The Elephant Grip allows the same flexibility. It is sometimes not the best grip for children with small fingers or for those that push very hard with their fingers. This is because their fingers slide through the holes at the front.
Triangle and Start Right
Triangular grips are one of the grips I see most commonly in schools. There are also triangular shaped pencils. These can be helpful for younger children to give them an idea of where to put their fingers. However, I don’t find that they are sufficient to help improve a poorly developed grasp. The Start Right serves as a reminder to children to pinch their pencil with the correct fingers. There is however limited moulding underneath, so children don’t always get their fingers into the correct position.
HandiWriter and Twist n Write
Both of these grips can be helpful for children who have a thumb wrap grasp as they help to open up the space between the thumb and the fingers. A benefit of the HandiWriter is that it can be used with any pencil or pen. The Twist n Write can be refilled and there is a pen version. This can be a good option for older children as it forces them to adopt a different finger position. It’s shape also makes it difficult for them to slip back into their old grasp.
‘The’ Pencil Grip and Round Pencil Grips
Both of these grips can be helpful for children that use too much pressure when writing. They also have a different texture so can be helpful for children who have some touch sensitivity and don’t like the feel of a wooden pencil. As ‘The’ Pencil Grip is only slightly moulded I find that children slip back into their preferred pencil grasp quite easily. Therefore, it isn’t great for correcting an immature pencil grasp. Round grips provide no moulding so won’t correct an immature pencil grasp in any way.
Stetro and Trigo Pencil Grips
Most people will be familiar with the Stetro Pencil Grip. It was one of the first grips I remember! The basic idea of it is great, as it has a space for each finger to sit. However, I have found that many children find the finger position too rigid to be comfortable. And most just work around it by putting their fingers over it and using their preferred grasp. The Trigo has a less rigid finger position system, but children can again easily slip back to their preferred pencil grasp.
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