How To Get Your Reluctant Child To Practice Pencil Grip

Does your child have messy handwriting or have difficulty colouring inside the lines? Your child may have poor pencil grip. This is a struggle for many children and can result in difficulty writing and poor performance in school. Definitely not good! You can help your child through fine motor activities designed to strengthen the muscles in the hand and improve the ability to move precisely.

There are tons of activities out there to develop fine motor skills without using pencil and paper (here are a few easy and quick ones). However, in order for your child to become adapt at using a pencil (or crayon, or marker), they will also need a good deal of practice using these instruments.

This is where the problem comes. There are some kids who just HATE sitting down with a pencil and paper (and usually these are the kids that need practice the most). You practically have to tie these children to a chair to get them to do so. If you are struggling with a child who is reluctant to practice this skill, this article is for you.

First of all, it is important to say that practicing pencil grip does NOT mean forcing your little one to do printing worksheets all day! Nor does it mean your child has to only every use a pencil. Just the opposite. Pencil grip activities can be fun and exciting, by simply making a few tweaks to the activities you’re already doing. Below are my top tips for engaging children who are reluctant to practice pencil/paper tasks.

Pencil Grip Activities

1. Switch Up Materials

Perhaps you have neglected crayons that have sat in the drawer for months because your child has NEVER shown an interest, or maybe they will make a quick scribble, then discard them for more active play.

A great way to re-engage your child is to switch up the drawing materials he or she is using. You could try sparkly pens, scented markers, or highlighters (make sure you get the really bright, juicy kind. I have never met a kid who wasn’t fascinated by a good highlighter).

You can also switch up the paper. Instead of white paper, try a colouring book with favorite characters. Instead of a 8 x 11 sheet, invest in some mural paper. Brightly coloured cardstock or fancy letter writing paper may also be intriguing to many kids.

2. Switch Up the Activity

Sometimes children need a little more guidance to stick with a drawing activity. Looking at a blank page of paper may be overwhelming to child who is not inclined to draw or colour to begin with. You may need to give them some guidance, or better yet, work on a fun activity WITH them.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Try designing a treasure map with your child (bonus points for also dreaming up a treasure to bury after making the map).
  • Draw a family portrait together (you draw the outlines, let your child colour in clothes or draw faces and hair).
  • Draw the outline of a monster, then ask your child to add the details.
  • Make a cartoon or comic strip with their favorite character.

Many children simply need more guidance when doing arts and crafts. Your involvement will motivate them to participate!

3. Switch Up the Position

Instead of colouring at a desk or table, tape the paper on the wall or use an easel. Working on a vertical surface develops many key motor skills. Even better, read a book or watch a Youtube clip on Michelangelo and tape a piece of paper underneath a table.

4. Add Meaning with an Authentic Audience

Some children simply don’t see the point of colouring or drawing, especially if pictures just stay in a colouring book, or are recycled. Give your little artist an extra reason to try by giving them an audience. Make special cards or give pictures as gift for family members.

Important: to really get your child motivated, make sure the recipient shows how THRILLED they are to receive the gift from your child. This will motivate your child to keep drawing. Teachers, grandparents, and special neighbours are great recipients.

5. Pencil Grip

So now you’ve got your child ready and excited to practice their fine motor skills through writing or drawing. It is essential that they use the correct pencil grip, called the tripod grip (see diagram below).

Proper Pencil Grip
Image courtesy of

If your little one continues to practice holding their writing tool incorrectly, bad habits will develop and they will not become more efficient and effective with the pencil (this is our end goal). To help, there are a number of products which an help to improve pencil grip and make it easier for your child to hold their pencil properly. This can vary from triangular shaped crayons to special pencil grippers to go over the pencil.

More Pencil Grip Tips:

  • Have your child hold a pom pom with his ring and pinky finger while writing to ensure they are out of the way so the first three fingers can grip the pencil correctly.
  • Put a sticker where the fingers should be gripping the pencil for a visual reminder, if your child holds the pencil too far from or close to the tip..
  • Have you child use a golf pencil, which can be easier to grasp properly for little hands.

Pencil Grip Activities

A Few Final Tips:

Your attitude is everything. Talk about drawing and writing activities as if they are a special treat and your child is lucky to take part and is going to love doing these activities. Basically act as if you are offering your kid a trip to Disney World. If you act like the drawing activity is just a chore to be completed, your child will view it that way as well. Sell it!

Make colouring or drawing a time to be together. No kid wants to sit at the table alone, especially if fine motor skills are already difficult for them. Spend time with your child and they will look forward to these activities, because it lets them spend time with their favorite person: YOU!

Let your child see you drawing, writing or colouring. Little ones want to copy and be just like the adults in your life. Let your little one see that you value writing or drawing. Make lists on a notepad rather than your phone, doodle, or invest in an adult colouring book. More than likely, your child will want to join in on your activity.

There you have it, some surefire ways to get your kids practicing their fine motor skills by holding a pencil/crayon.

What are your child’s favorite pencil/paper activities? Let me know below!

Pencil Grip Activities

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14 thoughts on “How To Get Your Reluctant Child To Practice Pencil Grip

  1. These are fabulous tips! My sons OT also had us order some sun pencil grins for him on Amazon that encourage proper pencil holding .

  2. This is an awesome post. My children love to color sheets out of a coloring book. As you mentioned above, sometimes a blank piece of paper is overwhelming. Although they will draw a few pictures from time to time, my kids will prefer to color an actual drawing.

  3. When I was younger, I had a bad pencil grip, and my school actually had a specialist come in. She put this funny little rubber thing on my pencils to try and get my to change my grip. Eventually I just changed my grip when she was around so she’d go away, But writing with any type of pencil, pen or crayon I still have that “bad grip” because honestly it’s just more comfortable for me.

    1. I actually have a poor grip too, but I have pretty messy handwriting. I think if I had been taught the correct grip, I would be a neater printer. That’s funny that you changed it until she went away, but went right back!

  4. As a homeschooling mom this is a wealth of information, as someone who obviously never learned proper technique, I’m sure my hands will thank you as well.

  5. These look like great tips for pencil grips. As a teacher, I can say that penmanship is not practiced enough at home, and should be! Thanks for sharing.

  6. I love this idea! I had not heard of these but I need something in between shoes and no-shoes. These look perfect.
    Too bad they don’t make toddler sizes.
    PS I adore the phrase ‘shoe break’. 🙃

  7. This is such great info! I love your tips and suggestions–your perspective is fresh and unique. My daughters have both been drawn to coloring and writing at an early age, but it’s always good to remember not everyone has that experience. Thanks for sharing!

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