The Kleenex Trick

Often a teacher or parent has a concern about how a student holds a pencil. Very young children may use their entire hand and the arm as one unit to make marks with a pencil or crayon. The pencil or crayon may be held within the fist at first. It is common to see young children make several changes in ways of holding a pencil or marker to write. The pencil may be held like a pointer with the index finger closest to the pencil lead. All four finger tips may be used on one side of the pencil with the thumb on the opposite side. As ways of holding writing tools matures, there is less movement of the arm. The ring and pinky fingers may not hold writing tools as often. The thumb, index and middle fingers may begin to make the main movements of the writing tool. This is called a tripod grasp.

If there is concern about how a student holds a pencil, especially after the age of four, there are a few ways to encourage development towards a tripod grasp. When the length of the pencil is shortened, a child usually needs to make adjustments that can encourage more use of the thumb, index and middle finger. Breaking crayons into smaller pieces can also help. When writing is done on an easel, taped paper to a wall, or a slantboard, a child usually will make adjustments that also involves the thumb, index and middle fingers working together. Trying the kleenex trick may be an easy way to help develop a better grasp. Have the student’s ring and pinky fingers hold a crumbled kleenex. This encourages a “quiet side” of the hand so the “active side” of the hand (thumb, index and middle fingers) adjusts to control a pencil or crayon.

kleenex trick

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