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Help me help DS (4) develop a proper pen grip. Pleeeeeeeeeease!

(21 Posts)
neverquitesure Thu 20-Dec-12 18:49:47

Firstly, an apology. I'm being a bit cheeky posting here, as my DS attends the preschool at our local school, but I think you talented and knowledgeable lot might be best placed to help!

DS was 4 in October but is still using a full fist grip for all writing/drawing/arty type activity. None of which would bother me in the slightest if he wasn't continually hassling me to teach him to write. His preschool teacher has taught him the two fingered 'froggy legs' grip but he is so reluctant to use it and quickly goes back to his fist hold. I don't want to take the joy out of his current efforts by insisting on a proper pen grip, but neither do I want to teach him to form his letters using his fist hold. I have tried to get him interested in cross stitch and hama beads to improve his fine motor skills, but exactly the same problem arises and he loses interest. He will form letters using his finger (for example in the flour when we are cooking) or by arranging his toys, and I have caught him typing his name on the laptop when I have left it unattended. This evening he said "you're never going to teach me [to write], are you?"

So my question is, have I missed any tricks?

Saracen Fri 21-Dec-12 04:51:47

I may get slated for being too laissez-faire, but I think it is very early in your son's writing attempts to get too hung up on pencil grip. You wouldn't get too stressed if he were a new toddler who had a funny gait; you would figure he is new to all this and he'll probably seek out a more efficient and comfortable way to walk soon. If he continued to walk oddly for a long time you might start to wonder whether intervention was needed and whether there was some problem preventing him from walking normally.

When your son asks you to teach him to write, is he specifically asking about how to hold a pencil or does he just want to know how to shape the letters? If he isn't asking how to hold the pencil then you could leave that for later and just let him get on with what he wants to know right now. It must be hard for a child to think about how to hold a pencil AND how to form the letters AND how to spell the words AND what he actually wants to say all at the same time.

I'd encourage your son's interest in typing, if it keeps him interested in writing while avoiding frustration. It may be easier for him to take up writing with a pencil when he is a bit older and better coordinated. The last thing you want to do is give him the idea that writing is a chore.

I know absolutely nothing about pencil grip but I would have thought one way to encourage him to experiment with different grips until he finds a comfortable one is to use different media. I should think if he has a stubby little piece of chalk or a short crayon then a pincer grip might come more naturally than a fist grip. Also, maybe he would write in a different way on a vertical surface.

Dunno... you may find that the home ed board isn't the best place to ask about this. Our kids don't have to be under pressure to produce large quantities of legible written work quickly unless/until they sit GCSEs, so we can afford a wait-and-see approach.

SilentMammoth Fri 21-Dec-12 05:10:12

Disclaimer: I am not a teacher, have no education background and do not home ed (would like to though hence why I lurk around the home ed board).

I agree with Saracen and also think it is early to get hung up about it. The most important thing (to me) seems to me that he is interested, enthusiastic and having opportunities to develop fine motor skills.

Just as an aside, I'm 31 and write with a fist-grip. I have beautiful handwriting that is often commented on grin. I do remember being constantly hounded by teachers to "hold my pen properly" but really if the outcome if legible handwriting, does it matter how you hold it?

maggi Fri 21-Dec-12 07:01:47

It's early days.
Think creatively about ways to use his hands : using chopsticks, sewing/threading, sorting rice from lentils (you could tie that in with the Cinderella story), etc..
Physiotherapists get you to retrain muscles by doing short periods of exercise, frequently. You could ask him to hold the pencil in a regular way whilst he draws over a line/letter. You could do that twice a day for a week. Then on the next week add a second letter or pattern and build up to 10 mins at most! Take your time to build up to this period of time (months). It will be incredibly hard for him and it will make muscles ache and he will give up if you go too fast!
Good luck

neverquitesure Fri 21-Dec-12 07:16:37

Wow, thanks. Those weren't the answers I expected, but I like them!

Saracen - I had considered teaching him to type first so may do that. I love his enthusiasm and don't want him to lose it. The short crayon/chalk idea is good one that I hadn't thought of. He is only interested in writing the words he knows at the moment. He wants to use his fist grip but struggles to hold the pen/pencil steady with it. He can't read but he seems to know most the letter sounds (thank you iPhone phonics app blush) and will sound out 3 letter words plus recognises a handful of longer words that interest him.

SilentMammouth - I also lurk here sometimes grin My stepson was home educated for a few years and we'd always be prepared to pull our younger two out of school if it looked like it wasn't working for them. I don't know any adults with a fist grip and I'm very impressed you manage beautiful handwriting with one, perhaps the pencil grip is to modern education what right handed writing was to the Victorians.

So i have decided, next time he asks I will show him how to form his letters properly. He will be over the moon for half an hour, then probably lose all interest in it

Thank you

EauRougelyNight Fri 21-Dec-12 08:50:11

Crikey, you're starting early grin My DD1 is also an Oct 2008 baby and can just about write her name (I can read it, others may not be able to!), can recognise a few letters but certainly can't hold a pen 'properly'. I don't know many at this age that can.

We do a lot of crafty stuff that helps to develop hand-eye co-ordination but really at this age they want to be having lots of fun as they learn.

FWIW she was resistant to learning to read/write (I offer every so often) until a couple of weeks ago when she decided she wanted to write her name and then learnt it within a few goes. Once they are ready and want to do something then they'll pick it up quickly enough.

One of her favourite books at the moment is one of those magnet books with lots of letter tiles, she'll sit there and spell out all the words. I'm amazed at how quickly she's picked it up. She's also got some wipe-clean books where you can practice making letters. Do you think your DS would like anything like that?

monstermissy Fri 21-Dec-12 08:55:15

I may of dreamed this but I thought you could buy a rubber thing that fitted on the pencil to help with the right grip. Anyone know where I'm on about? On my mobile so can't check.

monstermissy Fri 21-Dec-12 08:58:16

Yep you can, although I would say at four I wouldn't really worry.

neverquitesure Fri 21-Dec-12 09:02:36

Sorry maggi - I must have x posted with you and missed your reply. I will give those ideas a try and consider the 'working him up to it' approach. I'm anxious not to put him off though, especially seeing as there is no need for him to learn now.

neverquitesure Fri 21-Dec-12 09:07:46

EauRougelyNight - does your DD attend a nursery/preschool setting? There are lots of opportunities for writing practice at DS's and most of his friends seem to have cracked writing their name unaided which is think is part of the reason for his eagerness to learn! I'm trying to capitalise on this enthusiasm, but hopefully not at the risk of teaching him long term bad habits (although I'm less worried about that now)

Monstermissy - the rubber thingy sounds good. It also occurs to me that I'm sure I've seen short fat ball-ended pens somewhere that might help him. I might just let him muddle on and work it out himself though. DH has atrocious handwriting, so perhaps it's just his destiny. Oh well, he can always be a doctor grin

EauRougelyNight Fri 21-Dec-12 09:19:51

No, we are planning to HE so didn't bother sending her. I didn't realise they did any kind of formal learning at pre-school.

The way I did it with DD1 is just write her name on a piece of paper, slowly so she could see how the letters were formed and gave her a commentary like an i is a short line with a dot, an l is a line etc. She cracked it pretty quickly then, although to the outsider her writing may look like two tadpoles swimming into a couple of poles grin I've not worried about her grip yet because she barely does any writing, she might do her name once every few days.

I'm not in any rush to teach her further, she just wanted to write her name so she could sign cards. She learnt to do kisses in cards a while ago but wanted to do her name too. We're just going at her own pace- sometimes I ask if she wants to learn something, sometimes she asks me but we don't stick to any kind of schedule.

EauRougelyNight Fri 21-Dec-12 09:20:11

Sorry, I haven't had enough caffeine yet to make sense.

blueberryboybait Fri 21-Dec-12 09:24:09

Triangular pencils help with forming correct pencil grip, my DD is a very end of August birthday so started school at 4 years and 3 days and has had grip issues, the school have pencil grips and pencils with indents on them for her but have also worked on general fine motor skills pinching playdough, threading etc to strengthen her fingers. They are keen to get it right from the start as it is very difficult to correct once they are older.

flussymummy Fri 28-Dec-12 02:07:27

Hello! We've found playmobil sets and Lego to be great for fine motor skills- also decorating cupcakes with sprinkles, eating peas with beginner chopsticks, etc. My older daughter plays a lovely game of "schools" with her younger sister (despite the fact that neither of them go!) where they line up teddies and DD1 writes a letter on the blackboard that the teddies all have to copy on the board, ending up with DD2 after she's watched it being done ten times by all of her bears (some of whom get it badly wrong but are always praised for their efforts!)

Alonglongway Sun 30-Dec-12 00:00:18

My 15 yr old also has a fist grip and writes beautifully. All her teachers up until year 5 tried to help her change it and she just couldn't. And then the year 5 teacher pointed out that her writing and presentation of her work was perfect, so why would he pressure her to change. No one minds now she's home edd-ing!

Ponders Sun 30-Dec-12 00:04:13

I have a DD of 30 who is a secondary school teacher & she still writes with a fist grip!

Her handwriting is not beautiful (you'd think a 12-year-old boy was responsible grin) but she is bright & lovely & a brilliant teacher.

OhBuggerandArse Sun 30-Dec-12 00:13:30

What is a fist grip? (Doesn't look like the sort of thing one ought to google!)

Ponders Sun 30-Dec-12 00:16:32

triangular pencil grippers might help your DS though, OP smile

(I think ELC used to sell them, don't know if they still do)

Ponders Sun 30-Dec-12 00:18:57

holding the pencil as if you were contemplating stabbing somebody, ohbugger grin

Mikachu Sun 30-Dec-12 00:19:46

This short video shows the same basics that we teach at my primary school. We teach them to use 'froggy legs' (first finger and thumb) to pick up objects (could be anything to begin with), and then eventually teach them to make the froggy legs pick up the pencil, flip it and sit it on the log (middle finger).

It's really hard to explain, but I hope this helps.

Ponders Sun 30-Dec-12 00:20:00

or throwing a dart...

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