I recently received a message from one of my readers on Facebook and this drove me into doing more research. They wanted to know how to improve the writing skills of their child. Now, not the usual writing skills that involve grammar and punctuation but how their child holds a pencil to write. Now, how was I going to show them how to do it when I sit in North Carolina, at Duke? I figured out that we could write it down in an interesting way to ensure that anyone who is interested in this topic learns and can do it practically. 

On the side, I am doing well, Duke is great! I am currently in the second semester of my Master’s in Global Health and God willing I graduate May next year!! Oh, and my team won the Most Innovative Solution in the inaugural Master’s impact challenge at Duke two weekends ago!

Now, let me not get sidetracked, as I have a lot of things to update you all on, let us focus on helping my reader work on their child’s writing skills.

In the digital age, where keyboards and touchscreens dominate, the art of wielding a pencil is often overlooked. However, mastering the technical skills related to using a pencil is a fundamental step in a child’s journey toward becoming a proficient writer. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into practical tips and activities aimed at enhancing children’s pencil-related technical skills to improve their overall writing abilities.

  1. The Foundation: Pencil Grip and Control : One of the first steps in developing technical skills with a pencil is mastering the art of the grip. Teach children the tripod grip, where the pencil is held between the thumb and the first two fingers. This grip encourages precision and control. Emphasize the importance of a relaxed grip to prevent hand fatigue and ensure smooth, effortless writing. With the right grip in place, children are better equipped to navigate the intricate world of letters and words.
  2. Handwriting Exercises for Letter Formation: Handwriting is a skill that evolves with practice. Begin with basic strokes and progress to forming individual letters. Utilize worksheets with tracing activities to guide children in the correct formation of letters. These exercises not only enhance letter shapes and proportions but also contribute to the development of fine motor skills. Consistent practice lays the foundation for clear and legible handwriting.
  3. Letter Size, Spacing, and Consistency: A crucial aspect of technical writing skills is maintaining uniformity. Teach children to regulate letter size and spacing, creating a visual rhythm in their writing. Lined paper can serve as a valuable guide, ensuring consistent proportions and appropriate spacing between words. Emphasize the importance of a balanced and harmonious appearance, contributing to the overall readability of their written work.
  4. Mastering Pressure Control: Children need to learn to control the pressure they apply to the pencil. Too much pressure results in dark, messy writing, while too little may render the writing faint and hard to read. Through various pressure control exercises, children can discover the delicate balance that produces clear and aesthetically pleasing handwriting.
  5. Line Following and Hand-Eye Coordination: Activities involving the tracing of lines, curves, and patterns contribute to the development of hand-eye coordination. Children can benefit from tracing shapes, connecting dots, and navigating through mazes. These exercises not only enhance their ability to follow lines accurately but also lay the groundwork for precise pencil control.
  6. Finger Strength and Ergonomics: Strengthening the muscles in the fingers is essential for optimal pencil control. Incorporate finger strength exercises into their routine, such as squeezing stress balls or using tweezers to pick up small objects. Additionally, pay attention to posture and ergonomics. Ensure that children maintain a proper sitting posture and provide ergonomic tools like pencil grips or slant boards to support comfortable writing.
  7. Exploration with Writing Tools: Introduce children to a variety of writing tools beyond the traditional pencil. Colored pencils, pens, and markers offer diverse sensory experiences. Experimenting with different tools not only adds an element of fun to the writing process but also allows children to discover their preferences and comfort zones.


In conclusion, mastering the technical skills related to using a pencil is a journey that intertwines precision, creativity, and perseverance. By focusing on these fundamental aspects, parents and educators can empower children with the tools they need to become confident and proficient writers, setting the stage for success in both academic and real-world contexts.

Do you have additional skills that can be helpful to a parent who wants to help their child write better? Please share them in the comment section.

Lots of Love,

Dr. Ruguru Kimani.