Why a Good Pencil Grip is so Important

As an occupational therapist, I cringe when I see a child being encouraged to learn to write before they have developed a proper pencil grip.

child holding crayon with fist grip #5SLL #5sensesLL #specialneedshomeschooling #homeschoolkindergarten

The more a child writes with a bad grip, the more bad habits they can develop that are hard to break, maybe even impossible. Habits, both good and bad, developed in childhood can stick with you for the rest of your life. The good news is that if your child is young there are lots of things you can do to help your child build the muscles needed to have a good grip. I will be sharing some tips and ideas with you in the next few blog posts.

Today we will start with a common concern for young children: What if your child still holds their crayon or pencil in a fist grip? This means that no fingertips are yet on the pencil and the child doesn’t have the finger coordination and strength for coloring or writing. Your child needs to work on developing a grasp that uses the tips of their fingers. One way to work on this is with Rock Crayons.

Rock Crayons force a change in grip

rock crayons in blue bag #5SLL #5sensesLL #normalisoverrated #homeschool #homeschoolkindergarten #homeschoolpreschoolRock Crayons do not have enough room for the child to use their whole hand. They have to use some combination of their thumb and fingers tips to hold them. Don’t worry if their grip is still odd. This tool is helping them gain the muscles they will need for a proper grip later. And because you aren’t using a regular pencil, they won’t develop hard to break habits. Once they move on from these crayons to coloring with regular ones, their grip will naturally have to change to accommodate the different shape.

child holding rock crayon #5SLL #5sensesLL #normalisoverrated #homeschool #homeschoolkindergarten #homeschoolpreschoolRock Crayons are very small, so a child can’t hold them in a fist very well at all. And they are unique and interesting when compared to the typical shapes of all the other pencils, crayons and markers your child has likely encountered. When something is unique, it makes children more likely to want to play with it. So, when using these, children who are reluctant to color or draw may work much longer than usual. You can engage them even longer by creating different ways to use the new crayons.

Things to do with Rock Crayons


drawing of a fish made with rock crayons#5SLL #5sensesLL #normalisoverrated #homeschool #homeschoolkindergarten #homeschoolpreschoolGive your child a coloring book or page of something they love and praise their efforts. If your child’s grip is very weak, they may need to work for several short sessions to color the character. Do not worry if they cannot stay inside the lines or they color things “wrong”. They are making art and developing skills. Children work more when you praise them and their efforts instead of correcting them.

Introduce your child to mazes.

Working mazes with the rock crayons will also strengthen their visual perceptual skills and fine motor control. Cheer them on when they make it to the end of the maze.

This maze book by Kumon is easy, and the lanes are wide enough for rock crayons.

Rock crayons are also great for making rubbings.

Leaf rubbing #5SLL #5sensesLL #normalisoverrated #homeschool #homeschoolkindergarten #homeschoolpreschoolRubbings are made by placing anything with texture under the paper, then rubbing the crayon across the paper. While leaf rubbings are a popular fall activity, your child can attempt to make rubbings of furniture in the house, kitchen items (like a cheese grater), or any item with a unique texture such as a basket or guitar strings. You may need to help hold the paper in place while they rub the crayon across it.

A few minutes a day is all it takes!

Remember that these activities are a work out for small muscles. Working just a couple of minutes a day will help your child develop the muscle control they need to have before learning to write.

P.S. Here are the links to the rock crayons and other items I’ve recommended today.

Crayon Rocks – 8 Colors

by Crayon Rocks

Box of 32 Colors

from Crayon Rocks

My Book of Easy Mazes

by Kumon Workbooks

Jumbo Coloring Pad – Animals

by Melissa & Doug

Want to learn more about my favorite OT-related toys and games?

I’m a huge fan of using toys and games as a way of helping kids reach their OT goals. That’s why each week, for the next few weeks, I’ll be featuring my favorite toys and games with Occupational Therapy benefits here on my blog. Make sure that you are signed up for our mailing list so you don’t miss out on any of my posts.

Laura Sowdon, OTR #5SLL #5sensesLL #normalisoverrated

About the Author

Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.

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