Toys to Improve Pencil Grasp

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Helping kids with pencil grasp can be a challenge, so using motivating and fun activities to support the underlying skill areas is essential. Today, we’re going over the best pencil grasp toys to challenge precision, dexterity, endurance, separation of the sides of the hand, and other skills needed for a functional pencil grasp. All of this can happen through play using toys to support stronger hands!

The best pencil grasp toys to support the fine motor skills needed for a better pencil grip.

This post is part of our 2021 Therapy Toys and Tools Giveaway. We started off the event with fine motor toy ideas and then gross motor toys. Both of these areas are closely related to a functional pencil grasp, so be sure to check out those toy giveaways, too.

Today, you can enter for a chance to win a top-rated occupational therapy toy that supports the development of skills needed for a functional pencil grasp. Do this by entering your email address into the form at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on December 8th and you have the chance to enter to win 12 different therapy toys!

Pencil Grasp Toys

We love coming up with fun play and craft activities designed to work on the development of an efficient grasp.  Being the season of gifting to others, we thought it would be fun to bring you our top recommended toys to work on tripod grasp, intrinsic muscle strength, rotation of the pencil while handwriting, and an open thumb web space

Children who have difficulty with handwriting may completely HATE to work on letter formation and pencil grip.  Why not gift them with a fun toy this holiday that will work on the developmental skills necessary to improve their grip on the pencil?  Make the exercise fun as they PLAY their way to a better pencil grasp!

Handwriting is more than just pencil grasp! Manipulating a pencil to write letters and numbers has a lot to do with visual perceptual skills. You’ll find easy and fun ways to work on visual perceptual skills through play here. 


You will also love these Games to Improve Pencil Grasp

Best Toys to Improve Pencil Grasp

Toys that will help improve pencil grasp

{Note: This post contains affiliate links.}

Toys That Improve Pencil Grasp

Coming up with this list, we thought about the skills needed for an appropriate pencil grasp and age-appropriate handwriting.  This toy gift guide is broken down into toys that will help with different sets of problem areas when it comes to a poor pencil grasp.

Let’s take a closer look at toy suggestions for these areas:

  • Toys for Tripod Grasp
  • Toys for an Open Thumb Web Space
  • Toys for Hand Strength
  • Toys for Extended Wrist

Toys for Tripod Grasp

Tripod grasp: The most efficient way to hold the pencil when writing is with a dynamic tripod grasp.  So WHAT is a tripod grasp? 

A Tripod grasp starts with a nice round circle made with the thumb and index finger.  The pencil is pinched with the tips of the thumb and index finger and held close to the point of the pencil.  The pencil is resting on and assisted by the middle finger.  The ring finger and pinky fingers are tucked into the palm.  All movement should happen with the fingers and thumb.  The wrist and arm should not move while writing, coloring, or drawing. 

Often times, new pencil and crayon users will hold the writing utensil in a different way.  You might see four fingers opposing the thumb to hold the pencil.  You might see the pencil positioned in the knuckles between the index and middle fingers.  Maybe they hold the pencil away from the tip where the lead is and instead hold it in the middle of the pencil shaft.  There are SO many variations of awkward and inefficient pencil grasps.  If your little hand writer is showing some version that affects their letter formation and pencil control, try a few of these fun toys…

A few toys that help to encourage a tripod grasp:

Light Brite: Picking up and manipulating those little colored pegs encourage a tripod grasp.  Pushing them through the paper and into the holes is a great resistive exercise…disguised as FUN!  We have this Lite Brite Flatscreen – Red
from Hasbro and love making pictures with the pegs!  When the child holds the pegs in his hand, it’s a great way to encourage the ring finger and pinkie finger in a tucked position.  Show your child how to pick up a handful of pegs and “squirrel them away” in their palm while they push one peg into the board.  What a great fine motor exercise!  Not to mention, the dots of the guide paper is a great visual motor activity…so important in handwriting!

Lacing Cards:  Lacing cards are a great way to encourage a tripod grasp.  This set of Lacing Shapes
from Patch Products come in simple shapes with bold colors. The child must hold the tip of the string in a dynamic tripod grasp to push through the holes of the card.  If your child has their thumb squashed up against their index finger while threading the cards, be sure to show them how to make a nice round circle for an easier time.

Peg Boards: Grasping pegs encourage a tripod grasp especially while pushing them into the holes of a peg board. 

This Lauri Tall-Stacker Pegs Building Set from Lauri is great for building peg towers while learning colors and shapes. 

Older kids might love Fusion Beads like the Perler Beads 6,000 Count Bucket-Multi Mix from Perler.

Spike the Fine Motor Hedge Hog– This fine motor toy builds a stronger tripod grasp, and when positioned appropriately, can place the wrist into an extended position, too. This helps to further refine precision movements for accuracy and dexterity. These are great skills to carry over to pencil control and pencil movements during handwriting tasks.

Learning Resources 3 Prong Tong– This tong tool promotes a better grasp on objects…but only if the hand is positioned correctly. If you allow kids to just pick up the 3 prong tongs and start using them, they likely will position the tong into their hand with a gross grasp, or by using all of the fingers along the length of the prong. This can actually strengthen the wrong muscles, and promote an ineffective motor plan that becomes muscle memory when writing with a pencil.

When kids use these tongs, they should have their hand positioned almost under the tongs, as if it were a pencil. When used this way, the tongs can strengthen the intrinsics and promote a tripod grasp. These 3 prong tongs can work well when used correctly, but be sure to work along side a child with this one.

Toys for Open Thumb Web Space

Sometimes you will see a child who is holding their pencil with a closed web space.  This happens when the thumb web space is the area between the thumb and the index finger.  If the thumb is squashed up against the side of their index finger, they are not able to manipulate the pencil with small movements.  They might move their whole arm to make letters instead of just the hand.  A closed web space is an inefficient way to grasp the pencil and will lead to poor handwriting.  This type of positioning requires activities that strengthen and stabilize the thumb.

A few toys that help encourage an open web space:

Tweezer Games:  Tweezer activities promote an open web space and stabilization of the thumb.  This Avalanche Fruit Stand
from Learning Resources is a colorful way to encourage an open web space.  The vertical surface is perfect for encouraging an extended wrist (see below).

Bead Sets: Stringing beads is a good way to encourage an open web space.  The child must hold the bead and string between their thumb and index fingers.  Collapsing of the thumb web space will happen when the child demonstrates weakness in the muscles of the thumb.  Beading is a repetitive activity and promotes strength.  This Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Stringing Beads with over 200 beads
from Melissa & Doug has over 200 beads in different colors and shapes, and even letters!  You could even form sentences for the child to copy and practice their improved pencil grasp!

Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots:  Often times, a child will wrap their thumb around the index finger when they are writing with a pencil.. This indicates instability in the thumb and the muscles that allow for smooth pencil motions.  Pushing down on the buttons of the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em ROBOTS Game
from Mattel really strengthens the muscles of the thumb and allows for more stability leading to an open web space and ultimately more fluid motions of the pencil in letter formation.  Plus, this game is just plain old FUN for kids of all ages!

Toys for Hand Strength

Hand Strength:  If a child has weakness in their hands, they may complain that their hand is tired when they write or color.  Then, to compensate for muscle fatigue, they resort to an inefficient hand grasp.  They may grip the pencil with four fingers or with their whole palm.  many times, a child will start off with a nice tripod grasp and then switch to a less efficient grasp…or even switch hands!  Do they complain that their hand is tired or that it hurts?  These kiddos need to work on hand strength.  To allow for increased endurance when writing and coloring, this child would benefit from strengthening exercises.

A few toys that help encourage hand strength:

Pop Beads:  Pushing pop beads together is a perfect way to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the hands including the arches of the hands.  Pop beads are such a fun toy that can be used to make patterns, different lengths, bracelets, necklaces, and even shapes. This Pop Beads
from ConstructivePlaythings are unique in their shape, color, sizes, and textures. A twist on the classic bead, this set will excite girls and boys of all ages.  Be sure to shop for size-appropriate beads for your child’s hands.

Play-Doh:  Play dough is the ultimate open-ended toy for hand strengthening.  There are unlimited ways to play all the while encouraging hand development.  We love this Play-Doh 24-Pack of Colors
for lots of creative play!  Hide coins, beans, or beads in the dough and allow the child to find the items.  Roll small balls of dough using just the thumb, index, and middle fingers.  Roll a “snake” with the dough and have the child pinch the dough between their thumb and index finger.  Just get creative and make some things with your play dough.  Most of all, have fun!

Tissue Paper Art:  There is possible no better art project for hand strengthening than tissue paper art!  Crumbling little bits of tissue paper is perfect for strengthening the small muscles of the hand.  Encourage your child to use just their finger tips to crumble the bits of tissue paper rather than two hands to crumble.  This ALEX® Toys – Early Learning Tissue Paper Art -Little Hands 521W
from Alex Toys is bold, colorful and just plain fun art!  Even better for the intrinsic muscles of the hands is tearing bits of paper before crumbling.

Squeeze Toys: a gross grasp is using the whole hand to squeeze and flex into a grip.  What a great way to strengthen the muscles of the hands!  This Melissa & Doug Louie Lobster Claw Catcher
from Melissa and Doug is a fun way to encourage hand strength and endurance for coloring and writing.

Geoboard Activities– Using a geoboard supports hand strength to enable endurance in handwriting. Manipulating the rubber bands promotes finger isolation, open thumb web-space, and and extended wrist.

Learning Resources Helping Hands Fine Motor Tool Set Toy– This set of fine motor tools includes an eye-dropper, scissor scoops, and tongs. The sensory bin scoops and tools support hand strength through manipulating small objects or water. These tools are a great way to strengthen the exact muscles needed for a functional pencil grasp.

Toys for Extended Wrist

Extended Wrist:  An Extended wrist is a slightly bent back wrist.  When a child’s hand is bent forward toward the palm, they typically exhibit inefficient grasp on the pencil and weakness in the hand. A slight bend in the wrist towards the back of the hand (bent up toward the ceiling when writing) allows for better movement and flow of the fingers when forming letters.  Often times a child with a poor handwriting demonstrates a “hooked wrist” or a flat wrist and it leads back to inefficient control of the pencil and messy handwriting. 

A few toys that help encourage an Extended Wrist:

Easel: An easel can be used in so many ways while encouraging an extended wrist.  Paint, draw, color, or write on the elevated surface.  We love taping contact paper to our easel and sticking all kinds of craft supplies.  This really encourages an extended wrist while using a tripod grasp or tip to tip grasp to manipulate little items (think tissue paper, sequins, foil squares…the possibilities are endless!) This Easel is great for extended wrist activities.  And, it even folds down to reveal a desk surface.  It’s the perfect gift to promote improved handwriting!

Ker Plunk: The Ker Plunk Game
from Mattel encourages an extended wrist as the child pushes the sticks into the holes of the game.  They are encouraged to use a tripod grasp to hold the sticks as well.  Rotating the sticks encourages two types of in-hand manipulation. Take this game a step further in handwriting exercise for strengthening and play laying down on the floor, propped up on your elbows.  Getting down on the floor to play will activate the large muscles of the back and the shoulder girdle to improve precision in pencil grasp.

Montessori Boards– Precision and dexterity activities are needed for pencil grasp and when you add in dexterity tasks and manipulation of tongs, spoons, or tweezers to move and place objects, it’s a win-win. This precision Montessori board builds the skills needed for pencil grasp: a stabile wrist, in-hand manipulation, open thumb web space, and dexterity.

Best toys and ideas to help kids improve their pencil grasp

Looking for a few activities to improve handwriting skills? Check out our round-up of the best handwriting activities from our blog and these other toy suggestions:

Pencil Grasp TOY GIVEAWAY

Want to win a top-rated occupational therapy pencil grasp toy? One winner will receive a XISTEST Kids Wooden Montessori Board! And, 5 winners will win a pack of resources from The OT Toolbox shop! Use this pencil grasp toy to create tons of movement challenges to develop the exact precision skills needed to hold a pencil and write with endurance and dexterity.

HOW TO ENTER

Type your email address into the form below and hit the button. You will be entered to win! Want additional entries? Share our post on Instagram and tag a friend!

Pencil Grasp Toy Giveaway

    We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

    **Entry begins on the date listed. Giveaway ends 12-8-21. Winners will be notified via email.

    1. Fine Motor Toys begins 11-26
    2. Gross Motor Toys begins 11-27
    3. Pencil Grasp Toys begins 11-28
    4. Toys for Reluctant Writers begins 11-29
    5. Toys for Spatial Awareness begins 11-30
    6. Toys for Visual Tracking begins 12-1
    7. Toys for Sensory Play begins 12-2
    8. Bilateral Coordination Toys begins 12-3
    9. Games for Executive Functioning Skills begins 12-4
    10. Toys and Tools to Improve Visual Perception begins 12-5
    11. Toys to Help with Scissors Skills begins 12-6
    12. Toys for Attention and Focus begins 12-7

    Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

    10 thoughts on “Toys to Improve Pencil Grasp”

    1. What an amazing list!! I would have never thought of this topic, but it is SUCH a clever idea! I love that Avalanche Fruit Stand game. Looks like a blast! Lite Brite is the best!! 🙂

    2. I found your post on The Mommy Club. My youngest son struggles a bit with his pencil grasp. Now I have more activities to share with him to help strengthen his writing hand.

      I pinned this to my Early Elementary Education Board.

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