Many children enter school not knowing how to grip a pencil. This creates difficulties for the students, as they may be penalised for illegible or sloppy work. Children with improper pencil grips may also suffer from muscle fatigue and joint stress when writing because of underdeveloped fine motor skills. According to Education.com, the correct "tripod" grip allows children to loosely hold the pencil between their thumb and first two fingers. Developing the tripod grip becomes very challenging after age six, requiring the immediate implementation of corrective activities to strengthen the fine motor skills used to grip a pencil.
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Help children build hand strength through tasks that involve gripping an object between the palm and fingers. Fill a small tub with water and let children squeeze sponges, spray bottles and rubber squeeze toys. Children can screw and unscrew jar lids or practice opening and closing the lids on plastic storage containers. Allow children to cut play dough, straws or craft foam with scissors, as they are sturdier than paper and do not move around as easily. Outdoor activities, such as hanging from monkey bars, holding a swing or swinging a bat, can also build hand strength.
After children have developed greater hand control, practice finger-strengthening activities. Let children tear newspaper or tissue paper into strips with their fingers, then scrunch the paper pieces into balls using one hand. Pinch clothespins and arrange them around the lip of a cup or can. Pick up small objects, such as noodles, beads or cotton balls, using a pair of tweezers. Children can also roll, pinch and poke play dough to improve finger strength.
Once children's hands and fingers are strengthened, focus on finger dexterity, the ability to manipulate items with small, controlled movements of a few fingers. Children can practice putting coins in a bank, stringing wooden spools or beads on a piece of yarn or poking shoelaces through lacing toys. Allow children to colour on different surfaces by taping paper to the floor, an easel, the refrigerator or the table. If children demonstrate the correct tripod grip using crayons and markers, introduce them to a wide pencil, usually found in teacher's speciality stores and catalogues. As children are able to write with the tripod grip for longer periods of time, transition them to an average-sized pencil while ensuring they maintain the proper pencil grip.
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