Why pencil grips are like running shoes

I know from experience teaching K-4 that in a classroom of 25 there are always at least two or three kids who really struggle with handwriting. More often than not, they are boys, lefties, or both.

There are lots of ways parents and teachers can help kids improve penmanship. The traditional standby would be extra practice. Strengthening fine motor muscles through play dough, sewing, knitting, latch-hook, and playing tic-tac-toe with tweezers, might also help.

One of the easiest interventions would be using a pencil grip. But try telling that to an 8-year-old who doesn’t want to be “different”!

Here’s an analogy I like to use to make pencil grips seem a whole lot cooler: pencil grips are like running shoes.

If a third-grader goes out and runs a mile barefoot, he might come back with hurt feet. Did he run the mile? Yes. Was his time very good? No.

But imagine if that boy was wearing fancy running shoes. He could probably run that mile a whole lot faster and his feet would be less sore. Shoes protect feet from the pavement, keep toes in the proper form, and make everything easier. There is no shame whatsoever in wearing shoes.

That’s why pencil grips are like running shoes. They keep hands safe from curling up in weird ways and help pencils write better. There is no shame whatsoever in using a pencil grip.

Eventually we want (almost) all kids to be the handwriting versions of fancy barefoot runners. We don’t want kids to need pencil grips forever. But in the meantime, there’s no need to be embarrassed by trying some on, and taking them for a loop.

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