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When Do You Introduce Children to Pencils?

by Susan Revermann, studioD

Timing can really affect your child’s pencil holding and handwriting skills. If you introduce the pencil too early, he may not have the fine motor skills to hold it properly and may adopt the wrong pencil grip. If you wait too long, he may develop an improper grasping method from writing with crayons and markers and it can be harder to break his bad habits and correct his grip.


Although a toddler may be able to pick a pencil up, that doesn’t mean that he’s ready to write with it. You don’t want to rush the pencil holding and writing process. You should wait until your child is around 3 years old and at the appropriate developmental stage before you start working on a proper hand grip technique. His fine motor skills may not be developed enough until then. According to the Plano Independent School District, he may not be old enough to efficiently hold a regular-sized pencil properly until he is around 5 years old. There are other ways to help him develop the proper pencil holding technique before actually giving him one, though.


A younger child, around age 1, lacks the fine motor skills to hold a pencil properly. He’ll typically hold objects with a fist grip. As a child develops his muscle control, he naturally develops the skills to move to the four-finger grip. The pincer or tripod grip gradually follows, through practice, when a child develops his skills further. When a child starts holding his crayon or marker with the pincer grip, you can try introducing him to pencils. Simply observe how your child picks up and holds crayons to determine what stage he’s at currently.


Once you start noticing your child attempting the pincer grip, help prepare him for the world of pencils by first introducing other writing utensils. Assist your child in developing the correct pincer or tripod grip by breaking crayons in half. This forces his fingers to pinch the crayon with the first two fingers and thumb, instead of cradling it against his palm or in his fist. Even if he is just scribbling, it will start to train the little muscles in his hand to hold objects in this position.

Starter Pencil

When you first introduce pencils to your little one, try offering him a small golf pencil instead of a regular-sized pencil. These are lighter and about half the size of regular pencils. Once you hand him one of these pencils, observe his grip. If he holds it wrong, show him how to hold the pencil properly and readjust his fingers, if needed. You want to catch an incorrect grip early on so it doesn’t stick.

Proper Pencil Hold

A proper pencil grip is the foundation for clearer, more legible writing. It also prevents extra strain on the finger joints and muscles. If your child keeps practicing with the wrong pencil grip, he may develop a permanent, inefficient pencil grasp. According to the Plano Independent School District, the correct pencil position is when the pencil is held “between the pads of the thumb and index finger while resting on the middle finger” or “between the pads of the thumb and index/middle fingers while resting on the ring finger.” An “O” shape will be formed with the fingers and thumb if he is holding the pencil correctly.

About the Author

Susan Revermann is a professional writer with educational and professional experience in psychology, research and teaching. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Washington in psychology, focused on research, motivational behavior and statistics. Revermann also has a background in art, crafts, green living, outdoor activities and overall fitness, balance and well-being.

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