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Writing Skills

How do I teach my child to hold a pencil?

Kids usually move from holding crayons in the palm of their hand to write to grasping the crayon with their fingers and moving their whole arm to color. We want to help them transition into gripping the pencil between their fingers and having their fingers do the writing, just like adults do!

Try the Pinch and Grip Method to create a proper pencil grasp

  • Aim the pencil: Have your child place the pencil in front of them on the table with the sharp tip of the pencil pointing towards them.
  • Pinch it: Next pick up their pencil with their thumb and index finger.
  • Flip it: Then, gently push the pencil so it flips around and rests on their hand.
  • The thumb is bent and moving, the pencil resting on the joint of the middle finger and index finger which is bent and moveable. The ring and little fingers curl softly into the palm, giving the hand stability. It is okay if they use their thumb and 3 fingers to grasp the pencil, too.
  • You can fold a small paper napkin for your child to hold in the palm of their writing hand to remind them where their fingers should be curled.
  • Use their non-writing hand as “the helper hand” that holds the paper in place while they write.

You should see space in the arch of their hand that looks like an “o”. For children who don’t know where to place their hand on the pencil, you can wrap a small rubber band around the pencil about an inch and a half (1.5 inch) from the tip of the pencil to remind them where to “pinch”.

My child often spells words wrong, should I be correcting them?

The most important thing for 1st graders is that they develop a love of writing. The focus on spelling will come in later grades, but for now we just want to build their excitement for writing. Can they read and understand what they’ve written? If they want your help for writing a word, help them stretch out the word and ask what letters they hear. It’s ok to spell words for them, but they should be writing words based on how they hear them. Their words may end up looking like  “pinc” for pencil, “chrd” for tried, “wiut” for white, and “mnit” for minute. This is the first step in their writing journey!

Invented Spelling Video

Reading Rockets, this is an excellent video but looks a little dated

My children’s handwriting is very messy and unreadable, what should we do?

This is normal! Children are still developing the tiny muscles in their hands needed to coordinate using a pencil or crayon. Sometimes they need a little help to strengthen these fine motor skills. Let your child play with play dough, squeeze water out of sponges, use child safe scissors to cut paper, crumple up a small piece of paper into a ball using only the writing hand, or use kitchen tongs to squeeze and pick up small objects.

My child cannot copy from the board at school. Is this normal?

Yes, at this age it is very difficult for children to copy from a whiteboard at the front of the classroom. It is also difficult for many children to write on lined paper. This is developmentally normal.

If you have concerns about your child’s vision it may be time to have their eyes checked by an eye doctor. If you do not have a regular eye doctor that you see, stores like Walmart or Target have vision centers that can provide an eye exam.

Vision To Learn

Through the Vision to Learn initiative, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and the Mecklenburg County Health Department are collaborating to provide free vision screenings, eye exams and glasses to students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. For more information, visit Vision to Learn.

My child hates coloring and avoids writing or drawing. What should we do?

There may be an underlying cause to your child’s struggle. If the task of writing appears overwhelmingly difficult for your child, despite practice and help from teachers, your child may have a condition that affects handwriting and fine motor skills. Dysgraphia is a brain-based issue and is not the result of your child being lazy. For children experiencing dysgraphia, they may have difficulty holding a pencil correctly, writing on a line or composing their ideas to write. Teachers often note that it takes these students longer amounts of time to complete a writing assignment and often only complete a small amount of work. A psychologist can test your child to determine if they have dysgraphia.

How can I find out if my child has dysgraphia?

Finding answers to your concerns will provide relief and allow you to approach helping your child with a renewed sense of hope for their writing and learning. The sooner you can get help and resources for your child, the more success they will begin to experience.Start by meeting with your pediatrician to tell them your concerns.

  • Testing through the Public Schools (Free, usually involves a wait time of weeks or months for observation, interventions and setting up evaluation time with the school psychologist)

You have a right to ask for an educational evaluation  at any time from your public school. If you would like to take more urgent action, contact a local experienced clinical psychologist who can administer a learning disability evaluation, more importantly, one that specializes in dyslexia and dysgraphia. Ask your pediatrician for a recommendation.

  • Private Testing (For a fee, receive immediate results)

You can also have your child privately tested, for a fee, to receive more immediate results. Call your pediatrician to request a recommendation for a psychologist or agency that specializes in screening for dysgraphia and dyslexia.

The Child & Family Development Center

A multidisciplinary therapy practice with experts who assesses and treat a wide range of concerns.

Psychology Today

Browse an extensive directory of testing and evaluation therapists near you.


How can I help my child
improve their writing?

First Grade
Writing Skills

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