Finger Exercises for Kids learning Handwriting and How to Hold a Pen Correctly.

Sep 23, 2015


Handwriting is something that takes children a while to master. It is a skill to coordinate a pen/pencil in a controlled manner to produce an exact result and one that develops over time and experience. To develop good handwriting, you require good fine-motor skills, hand/finger muscle strength and a good pen-grip/hold.

Being a trained teacher, since my children started holding and drawing with writing tools (pens, pencils, markers, crayons, paintbrushes), I have been encouraging them to adjust their grip to hold their writing implements with the three correct fingers that allow for good handwriting down the track.
Many children don't practice holding a pen using the correct 3 fingers until they get to school and then it's often a matter of trying to correct the natural hold that they have developed. Whilst children (and adults) are able to write using other various holds, the time-tested method below, once mastered, is the most comfortable way to write, allows for ease of movement and is the least likely to cause muscle strain or discomfort, especially when writing for lengthy periods of time.


How to hold a pen correctly

Holding a pen/pencil correctly requires just three fingers. The thumb, index (pointer) and middle finger. This three fingered hold is known as the Tripod Hold/Grip.

Lightly pinch a pencil between the thumb and pointer and rest the pencil on the middle finger.


See how "Clever Cat" can help your child's handwriting here.

Finger exercises for practicing coordination and strengthening finger muscles 

One of the ways that they have been attempting to correct and encourage a proper pen grip/hold, practice coordination and as a finger and hand muscle strengthening activity in my daughter's grade 1 class, is with the following three finger exercises. She couldn't wait to come home to show them to me as she thought they'd be great to share on the blog! "This could help lots of children, Mum!"

Before writing, have your children try a minute or so of each of the three exercises.

The Woodpecker

Holding your pen/pencil towards the pointy end, use your 3 fingers to push the pencil forwards and then pull it back. Children can pretend that the pencil is a woodpecker that is pecking a tree (their other hand). Ensure that children keep their hand still and only use their finger muscles to push the pencil forwards and backwards.


Here's a demonstration:



The Caterpillar

Start by holding your pen/pencil towards the pointy end. Use your 2 top fingers (thumb and pointer) to push the pencil forwards and slide it along the middle resting finger until your fingers reach the end of the pencil, (almost like crawling along the pencil) then pull the pencil back, sliding your fingers along, until you reach the pointy end of the pencil again. Try going the full length of the pencil, up and down a few times.


Here's a demonstration:



The Helicopter

Holding your pen or pencil in the centre with the three correct fingers, attempt to twirl the pencil around like the blades of a helicopter by switching the fingers one at a time from one side of the pencil to the other.


Here's a demonstration:


Like any habit, it takes time to form a new one and children will learn to hold a pencil correctly with time and practice. The above exercises are a fun and challenging way to encourage the use of the three correct fingers for a good pen grip as well as strengthening the muscles. This will all aid children in developing good handwriting.

Encourage them to practice writing by:
  • writing about things they love, 
  • keeping a journal, 
  • drawing and tracing pictures, 
  • writing a menu for dinner,
  • making a toy or present wish-list,
  • designing a comic strip,
  • playing games like paddocks and tic-tac-toe, etc.


Fun activities that encourage writing and drawing:

Happy writing and playing,
Debs :)


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