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Learning to write systematically

Learning to write – with the right grip

Grasping and gripping are of great importance for human beings throughout their entire development. For pre-school children and infants/juniors to be able to use drawing and writing instruments effectively, all their muscles and joints from their shoulder girdle to their fingertips as well as a precise grip have to be developed and practised.

Small children first grasp objects and writing instruments using a fisted grip. Using materials appropriate to this grip, such as crayons or Jumbo Grip colour pencils, they start to make their first simple drawing movements. This can be seen in their first “pictures”: they are recorded on paper almost by accident from their arm movement

There then follows an important transition for all future drawing and writing movements: the movement becomes more targeted, lines are no longer haphazard, they are drawn more deliberately within the two-dimensional paper “space”.

With circular and zigzag movements, children practise important line sequences for the shapes they will have to use later in letters. From this point in time, children start to hold a pen, pencil or crayon using the digital pronate grip. Children are more conscious of using their fingers, they start to imitate handwriting.

The static tripod grip, consisting of a gently bent index finger and thumb, is practised when children handle small objects, for example when they are sorting beads or pieces of a jigsaw.

Three-finger and precision grip

Using his/her middle finger, a child can now learn the three-finger or precision grip. This is important when it comes to holding a writing instrument correctly, in other words holding it in a relaxed manner and being able to maintain a specific course. The index finger is the most active and dominant finger. The thumb lies gently at the place where it touches the pen – with a slight bend. The middle finger is at a slight angle under the pen and should not fall into any recess or depression as otherwise the entire position of the arm has to change for writing and is thus usually tense. To learn the three-finger grip correctly, children require guidance and repeatedly have to be corrected.

During all these activities, the eye-hand coordination is being learnt, practised and automated. Exclusively one-sided, monotonous movements, such as the intense use of a mobile phone or video games, hinder the important development of the eye-hand control. Children repeatedly have to learn complex gripping situations if they are going to succeed at school: throwing and catching a ball, threading beads, putting building bricks together as well as cutting out shapes.

When children are drawing or practising writing, also give them the opportunity to practise making sure their hand is flexible and not too tense: shaking their hands, moving their fingers fast across a table or the back of another child or shaping play dough with different movements (rolling, twirling, stretching, plucking, beating, kneading).