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  • Writer's pictureDr. V.S. Gayathri

Helpful Tips On The Right Pressure And Grip For Better Handwriting!

Often we have seen kids putting too much or too little pressure while writing. Pencil pressure is a common handwriting problem area and it plays a huge role in legibility, whether pressing too hard when writing or writing too lightly.

If pencil pressure is too hard, this can cause pain and fatigue in the hands and can increase the amount of time it takes to write. If the pencil pressure is too light it can be difficult to read.

What Is Pencil Grip And Pressure?

The best pencil grip is a comfortable grip that allows the hands and fingers to move freely and easily when writing and drawing. Some children hold their pencils very tightly and often press heavily on the page. As a result, a child may write in a slow and effortful manner or her hand may become tired or sore.

When kids hold the pencil though with three fingers and a thumb, it is called a quadrupod grasp.

When they wrap their thumb around the front of the pencil to stabilize it, it is called a thumb wrap.

There are many incorrect pencil grasps and a variety of others often make for sloppy or poor handwriting.

However, some kids might have proper handwriting despite using these grasps. That means that a pencil grip for a child is necessary if they aren’t holding the pencil in the tripod position AND their handwriting is suffering.

Why Do Kids Have A Poor Pencil Grasp?

Many kids struggle with their pencil grasp and handwriting. The causes might be due to fine motor weakness and/or coordination which may be caused by a developmental delay, sensory processing difficulties, low muscle tone, and sometimes neurological disorders like Autism, and prematurity.

If a child is struggling with handwriting, it might be due to their grasp or how hard or light they are pushing on the writing surface.

Using the best pencil grip for a child can help, but if there are still underlying difficulties with grip strength, hand fatigue, and/or correct letter formation the pencil grip will only frustrate your child in the long run.

What Age To Use Pencil Grips for Kids?

It is not until the age of 3 that we start to see kids using a static tripod grasp, which means their 2 fingers and thumb are in position, but they hold them in a still or static position.

It is better not to develop this grasp until the age of 4 years. However, if your child is three and they aren’t even using their 4 fingers, then you might have to help them develop a good pencil grasp with some activities.

By 5-6 years, a child might be able to develop and use the dynamic tripod grasp.

Tripod Grasp

How Can You Help Your Child?

Heavy Pressure:

- Provide a light-up pen and challenge the child to write so that the light does not come on.

- Play a game of MI5 - provide a pad created by placing a layer of paper alternately with carbon paper. Ask the child to write a secret message so that only one agent can read it. Initially, the pressure may make the child write so that the message can be seen on 3 or 4 copies, but by encouraging the child to self-monitor, pressure will reduce.

- Use a hard leaded pencil such as HB so that writing is not easily smudged.

Light Pressure:

- Provide an angled board with an angle that is approximately 25°. This will ensure that the wrists are positioned on the writing surface.

- Provide weighted wrist bands which would provide additional sensory feedback to the wrist area, increasing the child’s awareness of their hand, wrist, and arm position.

- Lower the table slightly to that the hips are flexed more than 90°.

- Use softer leaded pencils such as 2B so writing.

- Activities like leaf rubbings with crayons can help a child increase pressure.

- Play the MI5 game as above but turn it around and see how many copies the message can be written on

Sometimes focused games and activities can develop both the physical strength and sensory perception areas.

· Make sure that the pencil isn’t gripped too close to the tip of the pencil.

· Play dough writing – flatten a large piece of play dough/clay onto a desk and using a pencil write or draw on it. The idea is to create smooth lines, not torn ones, which pressing too hard will create. The advantage of this activity is it gives a child instant feedback about whether they are pressing too hard or not.

· Tin foil writing board – wrap a piece of card in tin foil and place the paper on top, the aim is to not rip the foil when writing.

· Corrugated card – place some corrugated cards under the writing paper. The aim is to try not to flatten the bumps in the card.

· Pattern work – discuss light and dark line patterns and how to create them. Then using different writing tools ask the child to try and create their own. Talk through how it feels when they are making dark lines compared to faint/pale colour lines using the same pencil or crayons.

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