Tips for Improving Pencil Grasp

Pencil grasp is a hot topic among teachers in Prairie Rose this fall.  Many of you already use some terrific strategies in your classroom to help students obtain what us Occupational Therapists (OT) call a functional tripod grasp.  A correct pencil grasp is one which is efficient and enables your student to write neatly without tiring.  The tripod grasp requires the tripod fingers (thumb, index and middle) to work together to control the pencil and write neatly.

Many of you have asked for quick tips and tricks to help students who have an inefficient grasp and struggle with pencil control.  The following are some OT approved recommendations:

  • Vertical surface (I.e. slant board, 3” ring binder, easel or tummy lying).  These types of surfaces and positions can help facilitate proper wrist extension required for a functional tripod grasp and also work on shoulder stability!
  • Proper positioning while seated or the 90, 90, 90 Rule (elbows, hips and knees with feet flat on the floor).  Proper positioning ensures all joints are stable and helps the student maintain a proper grasp.
  • Shorter pencils (I.e. golf size).  Shorter pencils facilitate a functional grasp because there is less pencil for the student to hold on to and control.
  • For our little ones (JK, K), playing with plenty of resistive materials and toys such as clay, Play-Doh, Lego, etc. can help develop those small muscles in the tripod fingers.
  • Pencil Grip – A pencil grip should not be placed on a student’s pencil / writing utensil until at least the age of 6 years old, unless it has been advised by the OT.  Please consult with the OT prior to applying a grip and for further information.

Allison Carroll
Occupational Therapist
Prairie Rose School Division


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