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Grip progression – when should a child hold a pencil properly?

October 18. 2018

If your child is starting to get into ‘drawing’ but it all just looks like scribbles, you might be worrying about when to start teaching them proper pencil grip.

There are several stages of grip progression, but there’s no right or wrong age for these – children all develop in their own time.


Stage 1

[1-2 years]

When children first pick up a pencil or crayon, they usually use a five-finger grip – holding it in a fist. They’ll rest their forearm on the paper and move from the shoulder to make marks on the paper.


Pencil grip activities

Promote general upper body strength by playing ball games sitting down, or hanging from the monkey bars. Homemade slime or dough is great for general hand, finger and wrist strength.

STABILO woody 3 in 1 are the perfect size for little fists – they’re strong, chunky and durable, plus they’re a coloured pencil, wax crayon and watercolour in one.




Stage 2

[2-3 years]

As your child builds strength in their hands and arms, they’ll be able to move their arm away from their body when drawing, with more movement coming from their arm rather than their shoulder. Their five-finger grip will change so their thumb is nearer the pencil tip and their palm is facing down towards the paper.


Pencil grip activities

Keep building up their hand, finger and wrist strength and flexibility by wringing out sponges, stringing chunky beads onto string, and rolling slime or dough with open hands.

The extra thick, break-proof lead in our STABILO Jumbo colouring pencils is tough enough for little hands learning about pressure.



Stage 3

[3-4 years]

Your child will now have more fine motor control which means their fingers and wrists are stronger. They’ll hold the pen with five fingers, not their palm, and they’ll be able to make marks by moving their wrist.


Pencil grip activities

Help with finger dexterity by singing finger songs like Itsy Bitsy Spider, and pinching slime or dough.

Triangular pens and pencils like STABILO Trio Thick and Trio Scribbi help to encourage a tripod grip by giving children three surfaces to place their fingers.


Stage 4

[4-6 years]

With much greater hand strength, you child will start to use three fingers to grip pencils, initially moving the pencil with the whole hand, and then with just their fingers.


Pencil grip activities

Build things with smaller building blocks, string smaller beads onto thread, and roll slime or dough between thumb and index fingers to help strengthen their three-finger pencil grip.

The triangular shape and non-slip grip moulds on our STABILO EASYcolors help finger placement and a more comfortable hold.


Check out our Arty Ideas for lots more activities to help little artists develop their fine motor skills.




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