Avoid a Poor Grip: Break Your Three Year Old’s Crayons

As a literacy interventionist, I spent a lot of time with kids who struggled to read and write.

I worked with several kids who had really poor grips which made writing physically more challenging than it needed to be.

Unfortunately, once a toddler learns to hold a writing utensil in a certain way and then practices it for a couple years, a poor grip is pretty well ingrained by the start of Kindergarten.

Understandably, no one wants to have a child have to try and “unlearn” a bad habit. Fortunately, a poor grip is usually avoidable and so is the frustration.

So, what’s the answer?

Well, the best answer is to help toddlers learn a correct grip well before they ever get to elementary school. Developmentally, three year olds are at the right age to learn a correct handwriting grip.

So how do you teach a correct grip to a three year old?

Two to three year old toddlers love to hold markers and crayons with all their fingers around them (kind of like a psycho killer holds a knife).

Fortunately, there are a few really easy things to do that will help encourage a correct grip:

Break all your toddlers crayons

That’s right! Short stubby crayons of just a couple inches in length force a correct grip. (Watch the great video below by Dr. Suzanne Asherson, 7:10 min.)

Use an easel

When a toddler stands vertically upright in front of a surface and holds a big paintbrush, or markers, crayons, etc. they’re much more likely to use a correct grip.

(FYI: This is just one of the reasons why I think easels make such an awesome toddler gift! Art & literacy make great interdisciplinary friends!)

image kids painting with easel

Write on a sliding glass door

Don’t happen have an easel? No problem!

Grab a couple of fat dry erase markers and let your toddler write on a sliding glass door or window. Kids love it!

Again, as your child is standing vertically upright and writing, they’re encouraged naturally to use a correct grip.

(Note: Make sure to use dry erase markers and not Sharpies!) Clean up is easy with just a little window cleaner.

Use Handwriting Without Tears

If you’re greatly concerned with your child’s awkward or poor grip, Handwriting Without Tears is an excellent program developed by an OT (Occupational Therapist). I took the training several years ago and was really impressed with it.

Interestingly, it looks like they’ve expanded their offerings and are now called Learning Without Tears.

Encourage a correct grip, but focus on keeping it comfortable

Keep in mind, the most important thing is that your child is able to write comfortably with their grip.

Let me leave you with a parting thought:

Several years ago I noticed in photographs and in a television commercial that Taylor Swift uses a non-standard grip.

image Taylor Swift using non-traditional handwriting grip

Has it kept her from writing dozens and dozens of hit songs?


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