Pencils or crayons? What should kids use first?

What is the right tool for kids to use when they are learning to hold a pencil?

Small crayons break, pencil tips fall off, little hands aren’t strong enough to make a line on the page with pencils and textas end up on the walls.

These are all difficulties parents face when encouraging children to draw. So what should your child use as they begin to drawing and colour?

Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this question! However, Kids First’s experienced paediatric Occupational Therapists work with children every day and have some answers for you.

Consider your child’s age
Developmentally, your 2 to 4 year old’s hands will struggle to hold something thin like an adult’s pencil. Using adult sized pencils is a recipe for disaster for your child, who is likely to get frustrated and give up. A thick crayon is a much better choice for a 2 to 3 year old because it will help their hands grasp around the crayon and increase the chance that they will see results from their scribbles. As your child gets older choose ‘jumbo’ triangular pencils which encourage correct pencil grip whilst still being the right size for a child’s hand.

Have lots of options available

Kids can make surprising choices and even though you might think it may be easier for your child to use a certain tool, if they are interested in using something else to draw with,  let them! Allowing your child to use something that’s motivating to them will mean they will draw or scribble for longer and that means more practice! Any drawing from young children allows them develop the skills needed to become competent in letter formations as they get older.

Don’t push your child too young
If your child doesn’t want to pick up a pencil, why not cut your losses and focus on building other foundation skills? Fine and gross motor skills are crucial to your child’s physical ability to pick up a pencil, therefore if your child is young and not interested in drawing, work with them on strengthening their bodies and their hands will follow suit.

Keep it interesting
Why just use pencils or crayons? Get creative and start using paint, chalk, shaving cream or chocolate! Don’t just limit your child to using paper either. Allowing children to draw on cement paths with chalk, a big canvas with paint or the kitchen bench with shaving cream is lots of fun and anything that encourages your child to use their hands will have learning and development managements.

What else can you do?

Developing your child’s fine motor skills is very important to their later learning.

If you have concerns about your child’s skills, a paediatric Occupational Therapist can provide you with activities and ideas that will support your child and give your child the best chance to succeed.

Kids First’s OTs are very experienced in supporting preschool and school aged children. Contact us at our Brookvale centre on (02) 9938 5419 to make an appointment for your child.

We’re here to support you and your child - no matter what.

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