Pre-Writing Activities: Hand Strengthening

I am taking a little time offline this week to spend with family and to try and kick the final symptoms of my recent illness.  Fortunately, I have some great blogging friends who have offered to help me out with a series of fabulous guest posts. Today Jamie of Hands On: As We Grow faces her child’s challenge head on and comes up with a simple solution.

Thank you Christie for inviting me over here to share on Childhood 101! This is an exciting day for me, as Childhood 101 is one of the blogs I have always looked up to.

It has recently been brought to my attention that my son, Henry, who’s three and just started preschool this fall, holds onto his pencils too loosely at school. He doesn’t have much of a grip, thus making it hard for him to write anything at all.

This has been bothering me for two reasons. One being that I don’t think three year olds need to necessarily be writing yet. But the second reason is “Why is this?”

Being a parent, and not a teacher, it took me a little bit to realize that his hands just weren’t strong enough. Being the sneaky parent that I am, I found a fun activity for Henry to work on his hand strength, without him even realizing it!


Such a simple and fun tool!

I’d had pom poms out for my toddler, George, to play with. So when I added the tongs to the mix for Henry, he worked on his hand strength while loading up the wagon. [Of course they were loaded in a wagon, the farm is the number one imaginary play around here.]

Once he figured out that basic operation of the tongs, he challenged himself. How many pom poms can he pick up at one time?

Henry exercises his hands for a good half hour at a time with these tongs!
Transferring the pom poms [or any small object can be used!] from one place to another.
Its so fun to have fun while working on something productive during it!

Henry will have a tight grip on  his pencil in no time. Especially if I add in more hand strengthening activities such as:

And Christie has an excellent source for pre-writing activities that will definitely help out in this area too!

Jamie @ hands on : as we growI’m Jamie, a stay at home mom, with two boys that are completely full of energy. I write at hands on : as we grow about activities and art that I do with the boys, with lots of them being ways to use that energy to our advantage. I love to sneak in learning opportunities during their play and try my best at focusing on the process of a project, instead of the end goal.


  1. Tong work is an integral part of Montessori programs starting at around 18 months…it’s one of the things they do to progressively work on hand strength and grip, in preparation for writing later on. Not to mention it’s just plain fun, judging by the grins on the kids’ faces….I’m not sure if it’s the tongs, or the way the teachers change out what they get to transfer using the tongs!
    I’ve also started including a little set of tongs with some of the sensory boxes I make for my 2-year-old, and they get a lot more use than the little shovel and spoon!

  2. I use tongs in my classroom often. One of my 4 year old groups favorite activity is a cereal math game. You need a set of dice (home made or store bought), tongs and a plate of cereal. The children roll the dice , count the dots on the dice and then take that number of cereal peices from the plate. The games over when the plate is empty. I have the children put their cereal in a cup and when the games over they move to another area to eat the cereal. That keeps the waiting for a turn more managable.
    This year I’m using cheerios but in the past Fruitloops was the cereal of choice. The children would sort(with their fingers) the cereal by color and count and compare groups.
    Lots of fine motor and math skills and once they learn the routine basically self regulated.

  3. tongs are loads of fun… they are known as ‘grabbers’ in our house!
    I also like those big plastic tweezers you can get for similar types of activities.

  4. Christine Horvath says:

    Tongs are a great tool to use for helping hand strengthening and preparing a child’s grasp pattern for writing…. I use them all the time in my occupational therapy sessions. If you want to get their optimal benefit however, encourage the child to hold them so they emerge out of the hand between the thumb and index finger so they rest in the webspace just like a writing implement would versus out of the pinky side of the hand. If you want to increase the challenge to move more into a grasp pattern like that used for writing have the child hold a “magical” coin, pom-pom, or other small item with their ring and pinky fingers so that just the thumb, index and middle finger are controlling the tongs. Hope this helps your emerging writers! Have fun!

  5. Kate @ another donkey design says:

    I am off to find some pom poms! Would you believe my son (23 months) only yesterday pulled the tongs out of the kicthen draw and was obsessed with them for the day – of course the needed to come in the car with us, up the garden path etc etc. But now i will work on some activities he can purposely use them for other than the chase the dog around the house! Thanks for sharing.

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