Sugar Aunts: Improving pencil grasp with Fine Motor Play

Improving pencil grasp with Fine Motor Play

I love to share easy tricks to work on things like fine motor skills. Working on pencil grasp and handwriting are two of my favorite ways to build functional skills as an Occupational Therapist.  This blog post is a round up of some of the best ways to develop a more functional pencil grasp through fine motor play activities.  I've updated this resource to include more recent activities that I've shared. 
creative ways to build and work on a functional pencil grasp

First, if you've go questions about pencil grasp, visit this page.  It's all about fine motor skills and play, however, you will find TONS of info about the fine motor "parts" of a functional grasp.

Fine Motor Play Activities to Improve Pencil Grasp

We love incorporating fine motor activities into our play.  These posts are some of our favorites from the past year, and as a bonus, will help with the development of the small muscles of the hands.  An efficient grip on the pencil uses a tripod grasp (thumb, index, and middle fingers) with an open space between the thumb and index finger.  This grasp on the pencil allows kids to better form letters correctly and in a given small space using the fingers to make the pencil movements, vs. using the wrist or whole arm.  If your child is struggling with their handwriting, look first at their grasp on the pencil and go from there.  Try one of these activities for improved muscle strength.


Pencil Grasp Exercises with Play Dough is fun with these mini fluted flower beads.  They build a flexed thumb IP joint which is needed for an efficient pencil grasp. 

Hand Strengthening Exercises are fun with tongs! They are an easy tool to  build so many handwriting skills.

These Craft Stick Tweezers build muscle strength, an open web space, and tripod grasp.

 Play Dough Strengthening Mat works on building the intrinsic muscle strength of the hands.

   Mini Circles Pencil Control Exercises

Fine Motor Development with Blocks is a great way to build many skills needed in handwriting.

In Hand Manipulation with Coins can help build skills needed for pencil grasp like manipulating the pencil during letter formation.

Thumb Opposition is an important skill needed for an open thumb web space and functional and efficient grasp on the pencil.

Mini Circles Pencil Control Exercises help with building small motor movements and tripod grasp through improved intrinsic muscle strength.


Finger Isolation with Play Dough helps with minute movements of the hands and individual finger movements in managing the pencil. 

 Clay Exercises can help strengthen the muscles of the hand for increased endurance of pencil grasp.

Motoric Separation of the Hand is essential for managing the pencil while utilizing the ulnar, stability side of the hand.


Fine Motor Play with Tissue Paper is a great way to build intrinsic muscle strength. Strength in the intrinsic muscles ensure a functional tripod grasp.

In-Hand Manipulation: Two Activities In hand manipulation is necessary during pencil grasp to manipulate and advance the pencil while writing, as well as making adjustments with the pencil while erasing.

Fine Motor Table-Top Play addresses intrinsic muscle strengthening.

DIY Lacing Cards improves bilateral coordination, needed for holding the paper while writing.


Pipe Cleaner Fun builds tripod grasp for use with handwriting.

Fine Motor Strengthening Color Match works on increasing the intrinsic muscle strength of the hands.

Pencil Control Worksheets You Can Make at Home These worksheets build pencil control, line awareness, and spatial awareness during handwriting.


Learning With Dyed Pasta provides a fun activity for building eye hand coordination.

Manipulating Coins for Fine Motor Development is a great way to work on in-hand manipulation needed for manipulating the pencil during handwriting.

Rainbow Writing provides a resistive writing surface, providing proprioceptive feedback and a way to work on motor planning in letter formation, as well as tripod grasp on the pencil.

Tripod Grasp with Wikki Stix Pushing the wikki stix into the container works on tripod grasp and intrinsic muscle strength, as well as bilateral coordination.

Using Pipe Cleaners in Fine Motor Play also improves intrinsic muscle strength and bilateral coordination with a brightly colored stick.  Using the plastic bottle provides great auditory feedback.

Add Handwriting practice to Christmas seasonal writing tasks!  Sneak handwriting practice into Christmas wish lists, Letters to Santa, Thank you notes, holiday to-do lists, and shopping lists! 

Try these modified paper packets to practice: 

Get 30 pages of modified paper with a Christmas Theme for legible and neat Letters to Santa, Christmas Wish Lists, Thank You Notes, Holiday Lists, and MORE! 

Creative ways to work on pencil grasp

Looking for more ways to improve tripod grasp and pencil grasp? Try these activities:

tweezer activities
Clothes pin games
lacing beads
Play Dough (Here's a GREAT recipe.) 
pop bubble wrap
play with play dough or silly putty
use spray bottles to water plants
Play hand games like "where is thumbkin"
Color with very small pieces of broken crayons.
crumble paper
playing cards
sign language
shadow puppets
Creative ways to work on pencil grasp

Kids will love these fine motor activities when working on pencil grasp!

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  1. These are EXCELLENT suggestions! My son just turned four and while he's writing, he's not holding his pencil properly and it's starting to frustrate him. THANK YOU for such awesome ideas!!

  2. I love this collection!! It makes fine muscle exercise look like so much fun! Pinning!

  3. So fun!

    I pamper myself by unplugging and spending the day with a book, lunch with my sister, pedicure or shopping. Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  4. I totally love the sugar aunts :) this is an awesome group of activities, and i will probably do all of them with my kids! thanks, ladies!

  5. These are some great ideas! I'm going to try them with my daycare kiddos!

  6. Thanks for the fine motor advice. My son is a former 29 weeker, and had a severe brain bleed which resulted in hydrocephalus. He had a rough start, and has a lot of trouble with his penmanship. He is 4,but struggles. These are some great, fun, ideas to help him along :)

    I have trouble with time management and actually having time to pamper myself. I enjoy taking a LONG shower, to just unwinde and relax. And I also enjoy a nice cup of coffee in the morning before the kids wake up :)

  7. I just discovered your blog and I seriously love the ideas that you have posted!

    Believe it or not, I find a hot shower to be relaxing. I pamper myself by putting lotion on myself after a shower and paint my toenials!


  8. Great ideas on your blog!

    To relax I like to cook OR go out to dinner with my family :D

  9. Such wonderful ideas!

    Pampering myself is usually giving myself a pedicure.

  10. I have Pinned this- what a great resource!

  11. This is a shot in the dark, but does anyone here have any ideas how to correct a right handed child from 'writing' as if they are left handed- i.e. curving their hand around? This child won't be going to public school and I'm lost. I will consult doctor at 5 year check up next month to see if he has any ideas but other than that all I can do is gently try and put her hand the right way. She can WRITE just fine- she gets the job done, but she holds her hand wrong and I think it puts her into habits of using whatever pencil mark might be closest, not necessarily the correct order (starting a letter that should be R->L and writing it L->R for example.


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