Easy Pencil Grasp Trick | The OT Toolbox

Easy Pencil Grasp Trick

Pencil grasp is a tricky thing! You can remind kids over and over, try all of the pencil grasp tricks and tips, but if a child struggles with fine motor skills, they revert right back to the inefficient and non functional pencil grasp. This is especially true in handwriting problems when kids are rushing to write or holding their pencil inefficiently, and legibility suffers. The easy pencil grasp trick described below is one that provides a frugal option for ensuring a functional pencil grasp and one that plays into the dexterity needed for letter formation and handwriting. Looking for more information on pencil grasp and fun ways to work on pencil grip?  Try these activities designed to boost pencil grasp in creative ways. 


Kids can hold a clothespin clipped onto a pencil to help with pencil grasp and fine motor skills needed for improving handwriting and pencil grasp with this easy pencil grasp trick.

One of the skills kids need for handwriting is pencil grasp. 

Easy Pencil Grasp Trick...that costs pennies

For this pencil grasp trick, you'll need to understand why it works. 

The issue with many kids who hold a pencil with an inefficient grasp is the dexterity and limited motion that results. They are holding the pencil with their fingers wrapped in such a way that they can't hold a pencil with dexterity. They lack pencil control needed for efficient handwriting speed. Letter formation suffers and legibility lacks. When a child moves ahead in grade level or age and are required to write more quickly, they can't keep up with written work requirements and legibility suffers. They then can't read their class notes, handwritten work, homework lists, etc. 

Try these pencil control exercises for more fun ways to work on dexterity and pencil movement in letter formation.

So why does this clothespin pencil grasp trick work?!

For the child who can't maintain a proper pencil grasp because of inefficient separation of the sides of the hand, this easy pencil grasp trick can be just the way to ensure the stability side of the hand is separated motorically from the precision side of the hand. Read more about motoric separation of the sides of the hand and what that looks like in fine motor work (such as holding and writing with a pencil).

When kids hold the pencil with the clothespin "bar", it provides a physical prompt that allows them to flex or close their pinkie finger and ring finger around the support of the clothespin. This allows the stability side of the hand, or the ulnar side, to provide support in writing.

The radial side of the hand, or the precision side, is then able to work independently of the other two fingers. This means the middle finger, ring finger, and thumb are free to manually move the pencil with precision. The precision side which primarily consist of the thumb and pointer finger movements in a tripod grasp can move the pencil with control and dexterity as the middle finger supports the pencil. 

For the modified tripod grasp, the middle finger can be a helper digit where it is positioned on the pencil shaft and a worker in moving the pencil with control. 

Both the tripod grasp and the modified tripod grasp are efficient pencil grasps. The primary concern is that the ulnar side is separate and supportive, allowing for endurance and dexterity in written work. 

Here is a fine motor activity that can be used to build and develop the separation of the sides of the hand.

Clip a clothespin onto a pencil to help kids with pencil grasp as a physical cue for better grip on the pencil when writing.

Clothespin Pencil Grip

Affiliate links are included below.

For this pencil grip trick, you'll need just a single clothespin. The clothes pin can be the standard wooden variety or a colorful plastic type. Why not make it a project and decorate the clothespins as a group to add a bit of fine motor play? Check out these fun clothespins we decorated and used as a spacing tool to teach spacing between words when writing

Some great clothes pins can be found here: 
Wooden clothespin, perfect for decorating and customizing
Plastic, colored clothes pin (A great price for 100 plastic clothespins!)

I can't think of a student that would like to make this writing tool their own with some glitter paint, fun washi tape, adhesive gems, or stickers.


Try this pencil grasp trick that uses a clothespin to help kids with pencil grasp for better handwriting.

Looking for more ways to improve pencil grasp? Start here:


 Pencil Grasp Activity Pencil Grasp Exercise Thumb opposition activity