Early use of touchscreens affects your child’s pencil grip

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Get to know more about what experts are saying about this, and how you can improve your child's pencil grip.

Do you often give your mobile phone or tablet to your small child so that they stay busy? Is your pre-schooler mostly kept occupied and entertained by gadgets? Paediatricians are now warning parents that swiping the touchscreen affects pencil grip of children. In other words, this could have a negative impact on the development of their writing and other soft motor skills essential for learning. 

Experts state that only two out of every 20 children starting kindergarten are able to hold scissors while only half can hold a pencil correctly. Doctors have observed that this happens because there’s a lack of hand strength and dexterity. They believe that this is mainly because of the overuse of gadgets over traditional pastimes, like colouring or just scribbling. 

Touchscreen affects pencil grip of children: What are experts saying?

touchscreen affects the pencil grip of children

Children find it difficult to use a pencil. | Image source: file image

Sally Payne is the head paediatric occupational therapist at NHS Trust’s Heart of England Foundation. Here’s what she has to say about children’s finger muscles getting affected.

  • The hand strength and dexterity of kids coming into school is affected as compared to kids entering school 10 years ago.
  • The fundamental movement skills in kids are not developed and that’s why they can’t even hold a pencil.
  • Children need lots of opportunities to be able to gain control over the finger muscles and develop these fine motor skills while they are babies and toddlers. 
  • The way kids play nowadays has changed. Giving them an iPad is far more convenient than encouraging them to engage in play that helps in muscle-building, such as colouring pictures. 

Apart from Payne, other experts also have similar thoughts. Mellissa Prunty is a paediatric occupational therapist and vice-chairwoman of the National Handwriting Association. She also runs a research clinic at Brunel University London.

Prunty says that it is a cause of concern that because of an overuse of technology, more kids may face delays in developing handwriting. She further states that when a child is unable to write, there are too many assumptions owing to a lack of research. And if the reasons are technological, there may not be any intervention too.

touchscreen affects pencil grip of children

What is the correct way to hold a pencil? | Image Source: screengrab from The Guardian

Child psychotherapist, Barbie Clarke shares that even schools are aware of this problem and that it originates from an excessive use of technology at home.

She says: “We go into a lot of schools and have never gone into one, even one which has embraced teaching through technology, which isn’t using pens alongside the tablets and iPads. Even the nurseries we go into which use technology recognise it should not all be about that.”

Touchscreen affects pencil grip of children: How to improve your child’s finger muscle development

touchscreen affects pencil grip of children

Encourage kids to use pencils. | Image source: file image

First and foremost, avoid giving gadgets to your kids who are still developing their fine motor skills. Once your child reduces using gadgets, you can encourage them to do activities that help in finger muscle development.

Here are a few examples.

For your 2- to 3-year-olds

  • Playing with building blocks, pegboards
  • Solving simple jigsaw puzzles of four or five big-size pieces
  • Stringing large wooden beads
  • Colouring with crayons and chalk
  • Building sand castles
  • Pouring water into containers of various sizes
  • Playing with dolls while dressing and undressing using large zippers, snaps and laces

For your 4- to 5-year-olds

  • Writing, drawing, painting and encouraging them to hold the paper with one hand while using the pencil or crayon with the other
  • Playing card and board games that may encourage the use of a dice or holding cards with fingers
  • Creating clay models
  • Cutting with the help of a child-friendly scissor and pasting
  • Building complex structures with many blocks


Sources: The Times, The Guardian, Healthy ChildrenYahoo!

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