Pencil Control Exercises

Pencil control exercises, or visual motor exercises using precise pencil lines in a given space, support the motor skills needed for handwriting. Unlike what you typically think of when you hear the word, “exercise”, pencil exercises do not need to be rote physical work. The pencil control exercise ideas we have listed below are fun and easy ways to support refined and coordinated pencil control when writing.

Pencil control exercises

Pencil Control Exercises

We originally wrote this blog post back in 2017 and used graph paper to create a DIY pencil control exercise, targeting small pencil movements, eye hand coordination, and visual motor skills. The pencil exercise remains a valuable tool now, too! In fact, there are many reasons why using graph paper supports handwriting and the visual motor precision needed for forming and writing letters of the alphabet. Don’t forget about that sleeve of graph paper that is in the bottom of your filing cabinet!

When we say pencil control exercises we are referring to just one tool in the occupational therapy provider’s toolbox.

Pencil control can be achieved in many ways.  Using crayons to help with improving pencil control in handwriting  is one fun way that doesn’t seem like handwriting practice.  

Colored pencils are another tool that can be used to work on pencil control, like we did with these rainbow pencil control exercises

Below, I’m sharing how to use graph paper to address pencil control.  

But first, what is pencil control?  Glad you asked.

What is Pencil Control?

Pencil control is using the pencil to write in a way that is fluid and in control.  It’s writing letters with changes in direction at a speed that is developmentally appropriate and automatically.  

Writing with pencil control allows children to write letters and words on the lines and with in a given space efficiently. 

Pencil Control Exercises

These pencil control exercises are so easy to throw together and a sure way to help kids work on line awareness and pencil use.  Working on pencil control is a way to help kids with letter formation and legibility in handwriting.  

When kids write quickly, legibility often times diminishes.  When kids have control over pencil strokes, they are able to carry over those skills.  

There are many ways to work on pencil control in creative and fun ways.  

We’ve shared a few different pencil control activities ideas that may help.  The pencil control practice sheets below are one that can be done quickly and in between classroom or therapy activities. 

Use this free pencil control exercise to help kids work on handwriting legibility.

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Use graph paper to work on pencil control:

It is very easy to work on pencil control with graph paper.  Graph paper is readily available.  Grab this inexpensive pack of graph paper, (affiliate link) and get started!
First, it doesn’t matter what size graph paper you use.  Younger kids are using less control naturally, so changes in direction in a smaller area are more difficult for new writers.  
However, beginning lines and control with those lines can be used with smaller graph paper sizes.  
By that, I mean learning the beginning strokes of pencil control don’t contain a lot of changes of direction in a small area.  Beginning pencil control includes starting and stopping pencil lines, line length, and placing the pencil and pick it up in the correct areas.  
More advancing pencil control, and the ability needed for smaller handwriting size can use smaller sized graph paper for more changes in direction.  
Use this free pencil control exercise to help kids work on handwriting legibility.

Pencil Control Practice Sheets

This exercise is very easy to set up.
You need just two items:
  1. Graph paper
  2. Pencil
How to set up this pencil control exercise:
  1. Using the graph paper, just draw lines, shapes, dots, angles, and shapes.  
  2. Then, show kids how to copy those forms.  They will need to keep their pencil on the lines of the graph paper, start where the model starts, and end where the model lines end.  
 This is a good sheet to start with for kids who are writing.  Kids who have never written letters before or are new writers may benefit more from pencil control worksheets without the graph paper grids.  

 Other Pencil Control Exercises

You can use graph paper or regular notebook paper for these exercises.
  • Another way to work on pencil control with graph paper is using increasingly complicated forms and shapes on the graph paper.  Think: squares, X’s, and up/over/down lines.
  • Used lined paper and simply draw a series of lines from top to bottom lines, going across the page. Show the student how to start at the top line and stop at the bottom but not go over the line.
  • Then go across the page and draw lines down. 
  • Draw circles on the line.
  • Draw diagonal lines in both directions, starting at the top and then starting at the bottom.
  • Use blank paper and draw small circles like we did in this rainbow pencil control activity. Then fill in the circles with colored pencils.
  • Make your own pencil control worksheets.
Use this free pencil control exercise to help kids work on handwriting legibility.

Use this free pencil control exercise to help kids work on handwriting legibility


Read more on pencil control and find creative ways to improve handwriting through improved pencil control activities. 


Skills needed for pencil control exercises?

Movements of the pencil in order to form letters and place written work on lines or in a given space requires several underlying skills. Those skills include:

These skills enable the individual to move the pencil with the smaller joints of the hand, place the pencil point in a precise location, and move the pencil with graded movements.

When these skills are lacking, you might see the pencil movements not being precise or refined, the pencil not moving fluidly when forming letters, letters not being placed on the lines, lack of legibility, writing at an appropriate pencil pressure, poor re-trace in letters, and other factors that lead to challenges with controlled pencil strokes.

Looking for more Pencil Control Exercises?

Grab some of the pencil control worksheets we have here on the website! The OT Toolbox membership members can also access many resources inside the membership that target this area of development.

Level 2 members will find over 130 pencil control exercises, activities, and tools to specifically support this skill, with more being added all of the time. Plus, there are over 1500+ other printables, activities, screening materials, and much more available to target other skill areas.

Members can log into their account and click this link to access the printable materials.

Not a member yet? Learn more here.

The OT Toolbox membership club

Free Pencil Control Exercise

This free printable sheet is perfect for kids who struggle with legibility during writing, older kids who need to touch back on the basics of pencil control.  

It’s a great start for kids who need to work on visual perceptual skills needed for handwriting. Plus, we created this activity to target pre-writing skills. So, for our younger learners in kindergarten who are possibly pushed to write before they have developed the fine motor and visual motor skills needed to copy letter forms on a line, this is a great morning work activity or center activity.

Get the printable below by following these directions:

  1. Enter your name and email address into the form below.
  2. Click the button.
  3. Check your email.
  4. Find the email that just arrived from The OT Toolbox (sometimes it lands in spam, so check there too).
  5. Download the file in that email.

Here you go…

FREE Pencil Control Exercise

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    Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to

    Pencil control exercises