Having a proper hand grip, or better known as a pencil grip, is the foundation of functional handwriting skills.
Being able to properly hold your pencil makes a difference between neat and messy writing. The way we write, good or bad depends on our grip.
Most children often have difficulties with holding a pencil or crayon correctly. Fortunately, this does tend to get better with age. But, there are some children that have a harder time than others when it comes to pencil grip and requires assistance to get a proper handgrip.
So before we can correct a poor grip, we need to understand what causes a weak pencil grip to begin with.
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What causes a weak hand grip?
When it comes to hand weakness, the problem is that the small muscles of the hands are not fully developed.
Some children have motor deficits that directly affect the hand’s movement and coordination.
Just as I have explained in the first post of this handwriting series How to improve handwriting in kids: 5 successful ways OT’s can help this is where occupational therapy comes in handy. In occupational therapy is where we help children improve their grip strength via hand grip strengthening exercises and activities.
Luckily, there are multiple handgrip exercises and activities that you can do around the house to help improve your child’s pencil grip starting today.
Why improve hand grip strength in children?
Improving weakness in hand strength is crucial to improve fine motor skills such as handwriting. Having adequate muscle strength plays a big role in a child’s outdoor and educational life.
Being able to hold the monkey bars, utensils, and educational supplies demands a strong hand grip. Not to mention getting dressed in the morning.
if you feel that your kid does not have a strong hand grip, doing the listed activities below will help to strengthen it.
I have listed several ways recommended by many therapists to improve the hand grip. Before jumping to these solutions, keep in mind that consistency is always required.
All of the following methods are easy to follow and fun for the kids!
Activities to improve hand grip
- Playing outside – This happens to be one of the easiest methods to stronger hands in the little ones! Playing outside is a daily routine for almost all children. Children can strengthen those weak hand muscles by doing everyday activities they love already. This can also happen on the playground hanging from the monkey bars!
- Cooking aid – Being a kitchen helper is a great way to get those hands stronger. Kids can help stir items when baking or use a roller when making pizza.
- Playing with Playdoh – This happens to be my favorite method, it is fun for everyone. Kids can squish, pinch, roll, or squeeze this stuff to create cool designs. With all the rolling and squeezing of the dough, they are working the tiny muscles of their hands.
- Make some Slime – Don’t have any playdoh? No worries, kids love making slime. Here is a recipe here. The best part is that you can do the same hand strengthening activities with slime, just as with playdoh.
- Hole punch activities – Using a hole punch for kids is similar to use hand weights as an adult. They work the muscles in the hand and strengthen the hand with each squeeze. You can have your child complete a fine motor craft using a hole punch. Here is a list of great activities here!
- Spray bottle – Who says kids can’t help wash windows or water the plants? Believe it or not, they actually enjoy helping (they think it’s fun!). Fill up a spray bottle with water and have them help water the plants.
- Wash windows/ Tables – This one goes hand in hand with the task above. After your child sprays the windows, let them wipe them down. This helps to strengthen your child’s shoulder strength as well!
- Carrying grocery bags – This is another simple task that can help improve hand grip. By allowing your child to carry in the grocery bags, you are helping them to improve their hand grip.
- Play tug of war – Improving hand grip does not have to be completely boring. While playing tug of war with your child, make them work for the win. Make sure that they are putting in some effort to pull the rope in their direction. The pulling effort is what will increase the strength of their hand grip
- Play with stress balls – These are not just for adults, kids can benefit from them as well. Stress balls can help keep your child busy, help to calm them while increasing their finger and hand strength.
- Wringing out a washcloth – This is so simple and can be done daily with each bathtime. Just have your child do their best to drain all the water out of their washcloth at the end of the bath. You will soon begin to see their hand strength improve over time.
- Tear up paper- Kids love tearning up things and paper is no exception. Kids can tear up paper to make simple crafts while improving their fine motor skills. Here is a really cute craft here!
- Ball up paper – Just as tearing up paper, kids can ball up paper to increase hand strength. I have my kids ball up 3 to 4 pieces of paper and have them shoot it into a hamper like we are playing basketball.
Improving your child’s hand grip strength is so important to that child’s ability to do everyday activities.
I always like to say that each child is different. Meaning that they will improve in their own time. Not every child will learn the same way.
That is ok! Learning your child’s learning style can always help the process. Just remember to make learning fun, this will ensure that whatever is taught will stick!
If you’ve found this post helpful and have not read the first post in the series on how to improve handwriting: 5 successful ways OT’s can help. Or the second post, Improving prewriting skills, you can read that by clicking the titles now.
Be sure to click that notification bell to be notified when part 4 of the series is posted!
About the Author
Erika is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant working in an elementary school setting. She wanted to create a blog and podcast that shows all sides of school-based learning. Her #1 focus is on providing parents of children with learning disabilities with relevant information in hopes of making each day a little more functional. So if you are interested in more content like this, please sign up below.