How To Teach A Child To Hold A Pencil

How To Hold A Pencil

Learning to hold a pencil correctly is an important skill for preschoolers. Truth be told, many children came to my first grade classroom still holding their pencil in a fist. While this is okay for toddlers who are just learning how to color, preschoolers and kindergartners (without any fine motor delays) should be able to hold their pencil with their thumb and pointer finger. There are a few “tricks” I’ve learned to help children learn how to hold their pencil correctly. Watch this video for 2 of my favorites…

Tips For Correct Pencil Grip


(Please disregard the “o on the k comment” and the blubbering at the end…I guess I was pretty nervous. I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable in front of the camera…I would much rather be behind it, thank you very much.)   :)


If your child is still struggling to hold a pencil correctly even after trying these tips, you might try a pencil grip. I would suggest just trying a variety of different kinds until you find one that works best for your child.


I would also STRONGLY recommend the Handwriting Without Tears Program for teaching your child handwriting. I used it in my classroom and was AMAZED how well it worked!

This post was first published June 2012. Updated 2018.

Click here for more helpful handwriting resources:

5 Fun Ways To Teach Handwriting

A Proverb A Day Handwriting Practice

Snow & Ice Salt Writing Tray Activity

Dr Seus’s ABC Book: Writing Letters In Shaving Cream

Roll A Sight Word Game

5 Pre-writing Activities for Preschoolers

Developmental Domains of Early Childhood

71 Things Your Child Needs To Know For Kindergarten Readiness



  1. Thanks for the great tips…
    I wanted to share one more tip that has been helpful for my 2 year old.
    To keep the correct grip once it’s in place, we put an expo marker pen cap or something small in the palm of my daughter’s hand. The pinky, ring and tall man fingers need to hold the pen cover in place in the palm of the hand and the pointer and thumb continue to grip the pencil.

    1. You can use a medium to large size pom pom ball that they hold while writing. It’s squishy and comfortable so it doesn’t hurt their fingers.

  2. THANK YOU! This has been a source of frustration with us. I’ve been trying to find a simple way to explain it to my little one. We will definitely try these ideas!

  3. This is great! I’ve never seen the first trick before and had totally forgotten about the second. Thanks making this video, even if it was uncomfortable for you – I’ll definitely be applying your tricks with my boys.

  4. Thank you for this video!! We have been trying to teach my son how to hold a pencil properly. He has speech delays and it’s been a frustrating process! He picks up on mimicking or playing style teaching pretty quick and he giggled watching the video with me. So I think it will work for him! Thank you!!!

  5. I love this tip!!! I’ve just tried it with my 5 year old granddaughter and it worked so well. She has the two fingers on top grip right now and I would love to break it before kindergarten begins. Thanks again….and I thought you did a great job in FRONT of the camera!

  6. Do you have suggestions for helping them have the pencil at the correct angle? My son (5) holds the pencil fine, but it points forward rather than back toward his shoulder.

    1. To get your child to hold the pencil at the right angle, put a pony tail band around your child’s wrist. Then twist the pencil once around the pony tail band and then lay the pencil in your child’s fingers. The pony tail will hold the pencil back in the correct position.

  7. Love! I’ve been trying to help my son hold his crayons with a good grip and I think that “flipping” trick will really help him!

  8. another good idea I saw and used in my classroom – wad a Kleenex and ask the child to hold it using only their last three fingers (middle finger, ring finger, and pinky) – this gives them something to think about and keep their other fingers “busy” freeing up only the pointer finger and thumb to correctly grip – while this doesn’t work each time they need to write, it does help familiarize them with the “feel” of a correct grip!

    1. Thank you so much for this tip!!! Our 13 year old son has a very awkward grip and I pray these tips will help!!

  9. Thanks for the tips! I will definitely be trying them out with my 5YO who has fine motor and speech issues. With the high standards in kindergarten, I am nervous about the coming year! We will start working on this tomorrow!!

  10. Thanks for the tip. My 2.5-year old son doesn’t always hold his writing instruments properly; I bet he can remember the “flip” trick.

    My 5-year old daughter is a leftie. Any information on helping her grip (since I know a few lefties who have developed awkward holding styles that have stayed with them into adulthood)? Also, she loves writing but doesn’t make her letters properly. They’re formed correctly and you can definitely read what she writes, but I know that she’s not writing in the most efficient manner. In your experience, would the Handwriting Without Tears program help? I’m at a loss since I’m a rightie.

    1. I am a leftie with four children, my youngest being a leftie as well. I was taught by an elementary teacher to curve my hand in that painful position to avoid smearing my writing, getting lead, ink, and marker on my hand, and to be able to see what I was writing. My parents were both righties and just told me to do what the teacher said. I did this until 5th grade. I disliked any writing lessons because my hand would hurt. I watched my rightie friends and copied how they held pencils. Over that year I corrected myself and I just remember being so happy about it. Yes, I got lead and ink on my hand from time to time but by junior high I did not.

      As a parent with my first three children being righties I wondered how I would be able to help them. It was easier than I expected. I would sit on my children’s right side and as they held the pencil I could easily have my hand cradled around their hand to help them learn to trace and write. With my youngest, the leftie, I do the exact same thing. I just position myself so I can cradle his hand to help guide him as he learns to control how he moves the pencil. I did tilt my cursive to the left and not the right, but corrected this by turning my paper so my hand could stay in the correct position. I am so thankful times have changed. In the early years of school I was singled out and told because I was a leftie I had to learn differently than the other kids. Talk about being picked on, even the teacher made sure everyone in the class knew I was different and “could not learn the same as the other kids”. My youngest doesn’t even realize yet that he uses a different hand than the other kids. He and I both do everything the same as anyone else….. but we tilt our paper the opposite way!

      Good luck and have fun!

  11. Another trick is for the younger kids, to use smaller pencils like golf pencils. In the past they always recommended the big fat pencils but really those are too heavy. So usually the first month or two of school, I use golf pencils with my Kindergarteners until I see if they are ready to graduate to longer ones.

  12. These might be great, but they are not how I hold my pencil. I’m 28 and still remember my teachers trying to break my habit, but I’ve never been able to get this index finger and thumb thing down. I hold my writing utensils between my thumb and middle finger, with the index basically resting on top.

    While my memories of being corrected aren’t exactly harsh, I do remember being very self conscious about it when it was pointed out to me and being forced to use one of those horrible pencil grips for years. The did nothing except hurt my hand.

    Please realize that there are other variations in ways that writing utensils can be held. If a child can write well with a slightly different hold, don’t force this one on them.

    1. I hold my pencil with a “weird” grip as well and I remember getting in trouble for it in 1st grade. I really don’t think it’s that big of a deal. I even get compliments on how neat my writing is!

      1. I hold my pencil with my thumb and middle finger, too! I always won the “best penmanship” award in elementary school, but my teachers made it their mission each year to change my grip. It never worked and I remember once asking, “Why does it matter if I write neatly?” I am a kindergarten teacher now and my experience has helped me be a better teacher of writing!

  13. In the handwriting without tears program that suggest that there are 3 “correct” ways to hold a pencil. The tripod, quadropod, and I forget the name of the last one (not something I had ever seen before). The teacher in me has a hard time accepting the others as correct, but my son is prone to the quadropod hold. What are your feelings about the other holds? Is that something you would be a stickler about?

  14. I have used the first tip for years in my 1st and 2nd grade classrooms and it worked great. Another great trick I used was to attach the pencil to their hand with a rubber band. You put the rubber band around the wrist and twist it once or twice and put the second loop over the pencil. It creates just enough tension to remind the kids to keep the pencil in the correct position.

  15. Who determines how a pencil is being held correctly? I can not hold my pens/pencils like that if my life depended on it. They sit between my ring finger and middle finger. I’ve never once in my life been told I’m not doing it correctly. I figure that they will find what is comfortable for them to control the pen/pencil.

  16. That first hint is GREAT. Wish I’d known it before I retired. Parents: Don’t wait until school age to start this. Start as soon as possible. If you wait until they are 5, they’ve had too many years and hours of doing it wrong and the correction process is stressful and may not work. Which…is why so many of you older people never got the “hang” of it.

  17. I think this is among the most significant info for me.
    And i am satisfied reading your article. But should statement on some basic things, The
    web site taste is great, the articles is in point of fact nice
    : D. Excellent task, cheers

  18. Thanks for this great tip, i have been working with my 4 year old on this and just kept telling her to “pinch it here”, the swivel idea is so simple but genius!

  19. That’s help. Thanks alot for sharing. I am a kindergarten teacher and I was looking of things like this. Your video is great. Thanks again.

  20. Thank you! I teach second grade, and I am going to give my students’ parents this site at our Back To School night. That first hint was amazing and easy for second graders to understand!

  21. As mentioned earlier, it’s usually a good idea
    to keep your porcelain collectibles or china stored behind glass, this way you won’t have to dust them as often and handling them less will reduce the potential of
    chips or breaks on the actual figurine. Many people would judge the
    food in a restaurant by looking at the tableware, dinnerware sets they use to serve the food.
    For every review of yours we approve and publish
    on the website, we will add 20 points to your VGP account.

  22. I don’t see the big deal about this honestly I was never shown any of this and I learned how to write, so what If I might write with “too many” fingers at least I could write read and spell by a young age. I feel like this is just something for parents to nit pick at maybe I’m wrong but I don’t remember ever having to be shown how to hold a writing utensil correctly nor did any of my siblings. I guess I can see if this is something your child is struggling with but still seems like it’s just one more thing to nit pick at.

  23. Thank you so much!! After working with my son this weekend, I realized how hard it is to explain how to hold a pencil. I thought your video was great and you were fine, no blubbering at all.

    I also ordered the Handwriting Without Tears book and I’m very excited to get started on that.

    Thank you for the suggestions and the video!! Great info.

  24. My first grader can not hold his pencil correctly, we keep trying to teach, and always remind him but he comes back to holding it wrong…I will use these tricks,hope it helps…thanks

  25. Love this info! I can’t wait to introduce it to my 3 year old son. I’ve been working with him on it but this makes it so simple. I think it is important to know how to hold a pencil/pen right. I believe it determines how much control a child has of the end of their pencil therefore making neat handwriting an easier feat! Thank you so much!

    1. The nerve-endings to the the index finger and thumb mature between the ages of 4-6. The function of these two fingers is to perform accurate precise work such as writing etc (the middle finger is a “helper”). At around 3 years old, a child uses the pencil by, by making a fist using the fingers designed for gripping. A child whose nerves in the hand have not yet matured, cannot deal with precise work. Once the nerves mature, it is not difficult to learn to hold the pencil “correctly” and not exert unnecessary tension in writing. If they don’t mature, the child is frustrated and starts to compensate by force. Sometimes you see people who support the index finger with the middle finger on top to force it to stay in place. Poor things. Sometimes they compensate in different ways, mainly by over-gripping, tensing the arm.
      You can’t expect a child whose nerve maturation in the hand is not complete to perform accurate work. It just leads to many problems for the child (who may become disruptive and soon be labeled with “syndromes”), the teacher and class.

  26. Is it appropriate to guide a preschool child’s had to help them learn to write?? My assistant always does it and it has never accused to me to to it. Please help!!

  27. Thank you – now you’ve shown how to do it totally obvious – particularly like the first – but would never have thought of either method to teach my son by myself!

  28. Thanks for teaching how a pencil should be grabbed, now give us a video about how to convince your kid to keep it that way :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *