How do children learn to hold a pencil correctly?

By October 3, 2018 May 14th, 2023 Occupational Therapy

The picture above is a great example of how children should hold their pencils correctly. When children come in for a handwriting assessment at our Bondi Junction clinic, parents are often amazed at how early pencil grasp begins to develop. Our Occupational Therapists explain that the early steps in learning to hold a pencil correctly start before the child turns one.

What is a pincer grasp?

The pincer grasp, or pincer grip, is what children do with their hands to hold objects between the thumb and any of the fingers.

It allows the child to pick up and place small items using their thumb and eventually their index finger in a controlled manner.

It requires the coordination of small muscles in the hands and fingers.

Despite the increased use of electronic devices, handwriting is still an essential part of school. As children progress through school the handwriting demands increase quickly. Children who are having difficulty with their pencil grasp will find it harder to keep up with these demands. It can impact their academic results, and it can impact their self esteem.

How to develop the pincer grasp

At about 12 months of age, babies start to pick up small items using their thumb and forefinger. This is when they start using the pincer grip.

When children play with toys that need to be squeezed, pushed together or pulled apart they strengthen the tiny muscles in their hands. They use these muscles for more sophisticated skills later on such as feeding themselves, dressing themselves, for painting and colouring, tying their shoes and many other activities.

By the time your little one starts school it’s important that they can hold a pencil to draw and write using a strong ‘pincer grasp’.

My child doesn’t have a good pincer grasp

If you are concerned about your child’s handwriting, then speak to an Occupational Therapist. The Occupational Therapists here at OneOnOne Children’s Therapy believe that correctly issues as early as possible leads to much better outcomes for the child. You can call us on (02) 80657837 or email us at