How to teach a child to hold a pencil correctly

Teaching correct pencil grip. Help your child learn to hold a pencil correctly.

https://www.sightandsoundreading.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/alligator-trick.jpg

As a mom to five little ones and as a kindergarten and special needs teacher, I have helped a lot of children learn how to hold a pencil correctly.   Sometimes it would be really difficult to teach a child how to hold a pencil until I figured out this fun and crazy alligator trick.   It is really important to teach correct pencil grip for a number of reasons.  Primarily,  you want the child to feel comfortable while writing and secondly, correct pencil grip will help improve handwriting.

How to Hold a Pencil

To teach the correct way to hold a pencil, you can have the child pretend his/her dominant (writing) hand is an alligator.

Open and close the alligator’s mouth – and show that the alligator is hungry and wants to eat the pencil!


How to teach a child to hold a pencil correctly

Now that the alligator is holding the pencil in his mouth, place the pencil on the bottom jaw of the alligator,and close the alligator’s mouth on the pencil.

Proper way to hold a pencil

As the alligator eats the pencil, he doesn’t like the taste of the pencil, so he puckers his lips.  (Show your children what it means to pucker your lips!)

Correct way to hold a pencil

He puckers his lips and curls his jaws in the shape of an ‘o’ – and clenches the pencil in his teeth.
How to hold a pencil correctly: The alligator trick
If your child continues to struggle, there are some neat tools out there that really help children to grip a pencil correctly.  Click the picture below to see the tool we recommend for teaching someone how to hold a pencil correctly.   We do not recommend the small grips that slip onto a pencil – in my experience, they still confuse the child where and how to hold the pencil.  These sort of pencil grips may help your child feel more comfortable holding a pencil (ergonomically correcting an already correct grip).

Baumgartens 00071 Twist and Write Pencil, Assorted ColorBaumgartens 00071 Twist and Write Pencil, Assorted ColorAmazon Buy Now ButtonCimostar Ergonomic Pencil Grip ,Writing CLAW for Pencils and Utensils ,Set of 3Cimostar Ergonomic Pencil Grip ,Writing CLAW for Pencils and Utensils ,Set of 3Amazon Buy Now Button

Here is a picture of how the pencil on the left above works:  I have had 2 children use the pencil on the left to help them learn pencil grip.  More recently, I have a 4 year old who was having trouble and I bought him the pencil grip on the right.  Amazing!  He was having a lot of fine  motor difficulty -holding the pencil correctly and also when he was writing he could not press hard enough.  The pencil grip on the right really helped him!  I highly recommend both of the tools above…  if one does not work, try the other.  If your child has small hands, the one on the right might be better…(at least this seemed the case with my 4 year old)  

How to properly hold a pencil

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After your child has mastered holding a pencil correctly, we have some free handwriting worksheets for you to help them master handwriting.  Enter your information into the form below and you will be automatically emailed a copy of our free pre-handwriting practice worksheets.  You will be added to our mailing list where you will find out about lots of fun free activities for kids.  If you have any trouble with your download, email me at [email protected]  -I am happy to help!


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How to hold a pencil correctly: The Alligator Trick

67 Comments

  1. Those are cool grips. It is so hard to correct a grip–I had to do it in college as I was training to be a teacher. One of my daughters also has a wrong grip.

  2. I wish I knew this with my oldest and can’t wait to try it with my preschooler!

    I recently learned that the reason toddlers once used cups with handles for their pinky to go through was to build that muscle that holds a pencil. Since we no longer use those kinds of cups it is harder for kids to learn to hold a pencil and hold it for long periods of time.

  3. Wow, I’ve never heard of this at all. I grip my pen/pencil how it felt naturally to me, and as a kid (now an adult) I have made a study of how people grip their pens/pencils differently. It always intrigued me.

  4. Thank you!!! My son is struggling this. He has these little grip thingies (it has little cups to stick your fingers in) but he hates using them. I am going to look into others.

    1. Glad it helped. That one tool my daughter uses is fantastic. I had bought her something and it just made her confused – definitely look for a similar one that my daughter uses -because it really helped her.

  5. Yep, I sort of blew it on this one. My oldest started writing and drawing on her own, and she holds her pencil a different way. I guess I should have corrected that, but didn’t know! Owell, she ended up being a very good artist, so I’m just calling her “unique.” Love how practical this is:)

    1. Thanks for stopping by! That is great that your daughter became an artist. We corrected the problem with my daughter who had trouble with this concept, but, I can see her becoming an artist too! Maybe artists think differently, and hold their pencils differently because of that? It would be interesting to study that. 🙂

  6. Love this tutorial! The “puckering lips” is genius. I wish I had this when teaching my kids to use a pencil. Wonderful tip!

  7. This is such a great idea! As someone who holds their pencil very strangely, I find this very handy for when I have kids. Thanks for sharing! Visiting from SITS 🙂

  8. Thank you for this article! I have been searching all over for the pencils shown! We found them a few years ago when they were being discontinued in a local store. Every year I have at least one child on my preschool class that needs help holding his/her pencil correctly. Thank you!!

    1. Lol I was kind of thinking that too! I saw the picture and thought “Thaaaat’s not how I hold one.” Haha but it’s been working pretty well for me these last 28 years. Each of my kids hold them in their own way as well. Whatever is comfortable!

  9. great tips thanks, my son has great difficulty in holding a pencil the alternative pencils may help ,he is receiving occupational therapy for problems with his co ordination

    1. Thanks! Definitely keep us posted. I do love those grips. They helped my daughter after I had tried pretty much everything. She also loved the alligator trick too, of course!

  10. I have to try this to my 4 years old daughter. She’s kind of stubborn child. I hope it’d work. Thanks for your smart idea…

  11. I find that there are many functional pencil grasps. The common factor is having the thumb down toward the tip of pencil or marker. Crayola crayons and markers have a line near the bottom to park the thumb. I also put a strip of masking tape on a pencil at the proper placement for the thumb. So many kids are distracted by the additional sensory stimulus of a pencil grip or assistive device.

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  13. Good to see this – wish that holding pen properly and practising writing was given more time in schools. We’ve just moved to Italy and in the children’s senza zeino school they practise writing every day- my 7 year old’s writing is already much better.

    1. Thank you! Yes…I think it is actually overlooked because ‘these days’ children are writing with their finger on tablets and they don’t practice holding a pencil/pen and writing. Then they enter school and it is a challenge. Interesting that they do practice more in Italy.

  14. These are great tips! My son is 2 and is just starting to play with crayons and such, but I have wondered if I should be correcting how he’s holding his instrument. I will be pinning this for the future. via Thank Goodness It’s Thursday.

  15. What a great tip! Thank you for sharing I wish I known this sooner so i could implement it earlier on. My son is now in Year 1 and I don’t think they concentrate on techniques like this. #brilliantblogposts

  16. Very cute trick! I actually hadn’t heard exactly this one before… my kinders would have loved it! 🙂

    Thanks for linking up at Free and Fun Friday!!

  17. Love this, wish it could be passed around to all parents. I teach 1st grade and it is SO hard to correct an incorrect grip.

    1. Aww, thanks! Thanks for help for sharing with your class! Kids today are so used to swiping on a tablet they rarely learn to hold a pencil.. hopefully the alligator helps those who need it!

  18. I also like to let parents and teachers know that the size of the pencil can make a difference too. It’s not how fat the pencil is, it’s how long it is. Same with crayons. If you’re kiddo uses a fist grip, break the crayon. They automatically go to a tripod grip. Short pencil, the same. I use golf size pencils. Grip does matter. It helps with stability of the hand, range of motion with the fingers, and being able to see what you are writing, and where in conjunction with the lines. Pencil sits in the “duck” web space. I tell my kiddo’s we’re just like a duck and have a web. They think it’s funny!

  19. Same if they’re left handed? I’ve seen leftys grip their writing utensils differently. Any feedback would be appreciated.

    1. Hi there,
      Typically for someone who is left handed, you often see the person have a “hooked” hand because the person is trying to see what they are writing. This is actually not correct/not the best way to hold a pencil for a left handed person. For someone who is left handed, you can use this trick… and I think the grip that would wok best is the “gun” looking ones… because you want to make sure the left hander positions his fingers far enough back from the point. The left hander would want to hold the pencil a bit farther down (about 1 inch to 1.5 inches from the point) so that they can see what they are writing. Also, they will want to position the paper so that the is to the left half of their body and slanted right. Doing both of these things will help the left handed person see what they are writing and, they won’t have a uncomfortable “hook”.

  20. My 7 year old son has the hardest time holding a pencil. He’s far behind on his fine motor skils still but im hoping to find this pen to get him acquainted with before 2nd grade. Where can i find one?

    1. Hi there,
      Thanks for your questions… There are 2 pencils that we have tried and liked -both are linked above, but here is another link to both as well: http://amzn.to/2sDM6GM OR http://amzn.to/2tVKg8s …I have 6 children and 2 have struggled with pencil grasp. One preferred the one pencil holder, the other preferred the other. Regardless, I have been able to find the first one linked at our “United Art and Education” store. I have never seen the other one in a local store or anywhere else, unfortunately. Anyway, I hope this helps and I hope your son does well with one of these grips. I would love to hear back that he is doing better with his writing!

  21. This is s good idea. It has been a constant stuggle to get my babies jold their pencil and i used the jumbo pencil and crayon. When school reopen i will sure to yry this strategy.

  22. I also use bull dog clips with the index finger going between the two silver “handles’. Different sizes work on markers as well which is handy for developing motor memory with a more colourful writing instrument. Our ipad babies are not that enthralled with a thing grey pencil line!

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