• Activities To Improve Pencil Grasp


    The most commonly seen efficient pencil grasp is called a “tripod grasp.”  When using a tripod grasp, you hold the pencil with the thumb, index and middle fingers.  This grasp is the least fatiguing for the muscles of the hand and allows the greatest amount of finger movement.   Many skills are required to develop an efficient grasp; moving fingers in isolation, wrist stability and good hand strength.

    Activities to strengthen the small muscles of the hand:

    ·         Sopping sponges- use a sponge to sop up water and squeeze it into a container

    ·         Animal walks- wheelbarrow walk, bear walk, crab walk

    ·         Cutting with scissors on different thicknesses of paper

    ·         Squirt Bottles- use to mist plants, spray the whiteboard in class.  (Place ring and little fingers around neck of bottle and use the index and middle fingers to activate trigger)

    ·         Stirring- cooking activities

    ·         Hole punch- use on various thicknesses of paper

    ·         Play tug of war with small diameter objects- plastic lacing, coffee stir sticks, straws

    ·         String beads

    ·         Insert pegs into a pegboard

    ·         Playing with putty/playdoh

    ·         Games and toys that require grasping and squeezing

    ·         Use twist ties or pipe cleaners



    Ways to Encourage Wrist Stability:

    ·         Writing on an inclined surface (whiteboard, easel, slant board, 3-ring binder)

    ·         Use a rolling pin to flatten putty/playdoh

    ·         Paint , draw or color on a vertical surface or clipboard


    Ways to Encourage Hand Development and Strengthening:

    ·         Line up pennies and turn over as quickly as possible

    ·         Open and close zip lock bags using fingertips

    ·         Roll objects- putty or cookie dough in palm

    Ways to Encourage Pencil Control:

    ·         Short pencils and broken crayons can aide in a more efficient grasp (thumb and index fingers control movement and middle, ring and little finger stabilize the hand)

    ·         If a student presses hard on paper- use mechanical pencils, gel pens, fine tip markers.  You can use a clipboard under paper while writing to increase pressure feedback. 

    ·         Experiment with a variety of pencil grips or provide a visual/tactile cue for finger placement by placing a rubber band around pencil, about 1” from the tip

    Encourage a Tripod Writing Grasp Through Phrases:

    ·         “Use the 3, have a slant, while the others can’t!”

    ·         “Thumb, index and middle fingers have fun, while the other 2 are on the run!”




    These suggestions were compiled using a multitude of sources, including; district therapists and multiple OT websites .

    Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.   Stephanie Sparks, Occupational Therapist





Last Modified on September 1, 2020