Tag Archives: preschool pencils that develop pencil grasp

How to Help Toddlers Prepare to Write

Ian, Lila, and Tom aren’t writing. They are drawing!

Contrary to the ideas of some preschool teachers, most three year olds don’t write their names.  In truth, most young fours don’t either.  I refuse to count the kids who “draw” their names like the photo above.  That isn’t writing.  That is drawing, the same as if I copied my name in Mandarin.  I would be drawing the characters, not writing.  Writing requires that I know the correct start and sequence of strokes.

So…What can you do to help late twos and the threes prepare to write?

The mom of a toddler brother of a private client asked me, and I know this child uses his fist to hold a crayon.  Improving his grasping skills should be one big goal, and there are a bunch of fun toys that can support this.  Read Water Wow: Summer Pre-writing Fun on the Road  and read LEGO Duplo My First Car Creations: Putting Together Cars, Building Hand Coordination for two great toys that kids in this age group will love.

 Another way to prepare a young child for handwriting is to build a child’s skilled use of spoons and forks for self-feeding.  I wrote a post on this  How Using Utensils To Eat Prepares Your Child To Write  , and I don’t think parents always fully understand that offering finger foods isn’t going to build hand skills after age 2, unless your child is very physically delayed.  Once they can pop a chicken nugget into their mouth, finger feeding isn’t building hand control.  It certainly isn’t enhancing grasp!  Getting a child the right utensils seems to be an issue in many homes.  Pre-pandemic, I did live EI sessions, and regularly asked parents to throw out those infant feeding spoons (they have a tiny bowl and a super-long handle) because they DO NOT HELP YOUR CHILD SELF-FEED.  THEY MAKE IT HARDER.  Read Which Spoon Is Best To Teach Grown-Up Grasp?  and Teach Spoon Grip By Making It Fun And Sharing a Laugh With Your Child   to find good utensils that support hand control.

The use of a vertical easel, the kind found in any preschool classroom, can build hand control and prevent the development of an awkward crayon grasp.  Stabilize the paper with clips or tape, because young children will not hold loose paper while coloring.  Using a screen stylus builds finger strength and makes drag-and-drop screen time into a hand exercise.  

Crayola’s PipSqueak markers and their My First Crayons are great choices for pre-writing.  ColorWonder paper and markers will not make a mess.  They will save your MIL’s couch at the same time!

Enhancing bilateral assembly skills will prepare a child for the visual-perceptual and midline awareness needed for handwriting.  I love MagnaTiles and DUPLO blocks, but there are other ways to build.  A great variety of building materials will support a typically-developing child.  Sitting passively in front of a screen will not.  Safety scissors should be offered.  The kind that really work: Lakeshore Scissors for Toddlers That Only Cut the Paper, Not the Toddler

Finally, young children need to see adults and older siblings drawing and writing.  If your older kids are addicted to screens, you will have to be the one coloring and drawing.  During stressful times, this might help you relax as well.

Preschool Pencils That Develop Hand Control (and with tips that won’t constantly break!)

Great pencils for preschool pre-writing fun!

Great pencils for preschool pre-writing fun!

Most preschoolers with older siblings are aware that the “big kids” use pencils for their homework.  Just like the fight to avoid the booster seat, older toddlers and preschoolers aspire to the next stage of development.  The problem with using #2 pencils before kindergarten?  Many children do not have the required small muscle strength and control to use them well, and drop into a fisted grasp.  As a pediatric occupational therapist, I am aware that a poor grip is not the end of the world, but it can make a slow writer slower and sloppier.  It can mean that a child’s hands get tired and they give up before the assignment is done.  This creates lots of arguments during homework time.  Wouldn’t it be better to spend a little more energy in preschool developing hand control so this is not an issue later?  These Crayola Easy-Grip Colored Pencils allow a young child to feel more mature by using a tool for older children, and have success designed inside.

The best features:

  • triangular shape gives small hands three flat surfaces to place the pads of their fingers.  More square footage gives more sensory feedback.
  • Short shafts discourage a fisted grip and match the smaller hands of younger children.
  • Thicker lead minimizes tip breakage, but you can still use the larger opening on a regular sharpener to get a fine point if desired.
  • coloring pictures within the lines and with the contours of the designs is terrific strengthening and motor planning for little hands!  I feel that coloring is totally underrated by most adults.  Hint: coloring with your child, describing in a play-by-play manner what strokes(vertical, horizontal, circular) you use and why, is absolutely magic.  Children really want to see what you do, see you make mistakes and deal with it, etc.  Youaren’t wasting your time, you are investing this skill with meaning and teaching without realizing it.

This box of pencils is very affordable; combined with the Melissa and Doug coloring pads (posted December 2014) it is a wonderful gift for a 3-5 year old at a very reasonable price!