All rights reserved. © Copyright Teach Children Ltd  |  Sitemap |  Contact Us |  Disclaimer | About Us | Facebook | Twitter

Teach Handwriting
Blog About Us Contact Us

Pencil grip for handwriting

Children can find it difficult to develop, and remember how to form, a tripod grip due to the fine motor control and pressure skills needed.

We have adapted the traditional nursery rhyme “Tommy Thumb” to help young children learn how to form a tripod grip.

The grip version of the rhyme can be taught alongside the original as just another verse; the placing of the pencil can be replaced by using a finger from the other hand, this way a child can begin to develop the thumb and finger movements they will need later on to hold a pencil correctly.

  1. Place the pencil on the table in front of the writing hand, so it forms a straight line up the table with the writing tip of the pencil pointing towards you.
  2. Then using your thumb and index finger pinch the pencil either side of the shaft  about 2 cm up from the tip for a right-handed writer and about 3 cm up for a left-handed writer. Dots or sticker may be placed on the pencil to help thumb and finger placement.
  3. Pick the pencil up off the table and place the fingernail of the middle finger on to the pencil just above the tip.
  4. Keep the ring and little fingers gently curled in.
  5. Push down with the middle finger so that the pencil moves up and over like a drawbridge, keep pushing until the pencil is supported in the cup (web of skin that joins the thumb, hand and index finger) and the pencil is resting on the inner edge of middle finger.
  6. When writing, the end of the pencil will be angled towards the shoulder for right-handed writers and the elbow for left-handed writers.

This is not a rhyme but a set of simple instructions

The original “Tommy Thumb“ rhyme is a great hand and finger strength and dexterity action rhyme making it an ideal warm up activity for young children, or just fun to play with pre-school children. An advantage of using a known rhyme is that children learn the thumb and finger characters in a fun and non-threatening way.

Young children love a simple catchy rhyme and will happily sing it out loud to help them remember how to do something. However as they get a little older such rhymes are not really appropriate as aids or memory joggers. So we have another tip to help older children learn and develop their tripod pencil grip. We call it the “Drawbridge Flip”.

Forming the tripod pencil grip Stage 3




Forming the tripod pencil grip Stage 1 Forming the tripod pencil grip Stage 2



Forming the tripod pencil grip Stage 4

Some children may require extra support in learning the technique of holding a pencil in a tripod grip. The following one to one method may be more suitable for them.

We often talk about the most appropriate grip for handwriting being the tripod grip; but this usually only refers to finger position. It is easy to forget the importance of the actual hand position in relation to the pencil and paper for handwriting.

The ideal position is for the hand, wrist and elbow to be below the tip of the pencil and under the writing line for both left and right-handed writers.

Pencil grip rhyme for young children (4 - 5 year olds)

One to one method of teaching the tripod pencil grip (All age groups)

Hand position for handwriting

Tommy Thumb rhyme

Drawbridge flip (All age groups)

How to form the adaptive tripod pencil grip for handwriting


To start with it is easier to teach this grip using both hands

With the palm of the writing hand above the table and facing down towards it, spread the fingers out wide.

Holding the top end of the pencil vertically in the other hand place the pencil in between and at the base of the index and middle fingers about half way up the shaft of the pencil.

Forming the tripod pencil grip Stage 3 How to hold a pencil in the Tripod Pencil Grip Forming the tripod pencil grip Stage 4

The adaptive tripod pencil grip - drawbridge flip method

Place the pencil on the table in front of the writing hand, so it forms a straight line up the table with the writing tip of the pencil pointing towards you.

Then using the tip of the thumb and inner edge of the middle finger pinch the pencil either side of the shaft  about 2 cm up from the tip.

Pick the pencil up off the table and rotate the wrist back so the pencil falls in between the index and middle finger and rests at the ‘V’ shaped base of the two fingers.

Slide the middle finger under the pencil shaft and place the index finger on top of the shaft to form the pincer grip.

Keep the ring and little finger gently curled in.

Forming the tripod pencil grip Stage 1 How to hold a pencil in the Tripod Pencil Grip

2.

3.

4.

5.

1.

 The tripod pencil grip step by step guide  (All age groups)

 The drawbridge flip step by step guide  (All age groups)

Forming the tripod pencil grip Stage 5

When writing, the wrist should be flat on the table with the pencil shaft angled at about 45 degrees.

Forming the tripod pencil grip Stage 2

2.

3.

4.

5.

1.

Twist the hand inwards vertically 90 degrees and grip either side of the pencil with the tips of the thumb and index finger about 2 cm up from the tip (pincer grip).

Forming the tripod pencil grip Stage 1 Forming the tripod pencil grip Stage 2 Forming the tripod pencil grip Stage 5

Gently close the fingers together and pull the shaft of the pencil back towards you from the vertical to about 45 degrees.

Move the middle finger so that the pencil shaft rests on its top inner edge. Keep the ring and little finger gently curled in.

2.

3.

1.

Twist the hand back 90 degrees to start writing.

Top