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Pencil pressure

The best pencil grip is a comfortable grip that allows the hands and fingers to move freely when writing. Some children, however, hold their pencil very tightly and often press heavily on the page.

As a result, a child may write in a slow and effortful manner and the hand may become tired and sore. Other children may do the opposite and write very lightly, this may result in work that is hard to read.

It is important your child becomes aware of how tightly they hold the pencil and how heavily they press on the page. They can then learn to monitor their writing pressure for themselves.

Ideas to reduce pencil grip pressure

Wrap an unused strip of Blu-Tack around a pencil approx. 1cm from the drawing tip. If your child holds the pencil too tightly they will squash the Blu-Tack. Help your child become aware of how tightly they hold the pencil by the marks on the blue tack. Encourage them to hold the pencil less tightly and see if there is a difference to a new piece of blue tack.

Try different pencils. Chunkier pencils are often easier or try a pencil grip.

 Ways to reduce pressure on paper

  • Try writing on piece of paper over a thin dishcloth or use a computer mouse pad. If your child writes too hard the pencil tip will tear or poke through the paper.
  • Ask your child to colour in a picture with a pencil. Using light grey, medium grey and dark grey. Discuss how applying different amounts of pressure changes the shade of grey.
  • Encourage your child to write a sentence by using very light pressure, a very firm pressure and somewhere in between. Discuss how it feels to them after.
  • Practice writing their name with their eyes closed using a “just right” amount of pressure.
  • Try writing on a piece of paper that is on a magazine. Feel the back of the paper. If your child presses too hard it will be easy to feel the writing. Encourage your child to write lighter so that it can not be felt through the paper.
  • Try a mechanical pencil and encourage your child not to press too hard or the lead will break.
  • Layer up carbon paper and plain paper. Get your child to write a secret message and see how many layers it goes through. Try and encourage them to reduce the pressure so it only goes onto the first sheet.
  • Try ghost writing. Ask your child to write a message and then erase it without leaving any marks. Try and read the words after they have erased it. If you are not able to then the child wins.
  • Try a light up pressure pen, these light up when the child applies too much pressure
  • Write on a single sheet of paper when writing at a desk or table. A firm surface helps to limit the amount of pressure your child can use.
  • Try writing on tin foil or tissue paper and don’t let your child rip or tear the paper.
  • Encourage your child to listen to the sound of the pencil. If they press firmly the sound is louder than if they press more lightly.

Ideas to increase pressure on paper

  • Try using gel pens instead of pencils.
  • Use carbon paper and plain paper. Get your child to write a message and see if they can get it to go though to the next layer.
  • Try writing on tin foil and encourage the child to make an imprint.
  • Do strengthening exercises to help strengthen the hand using stress balls, fidget toys, or play dough.

Contact us

If you have any further questions or concerns please contact the Rheumatology Occupational Therapist on 0114 271 7227.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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