Parenting News

Children struggling to use pencils, doctors warn

The use of touchscreen devices from a young age is affecting children's finger muscle development, according to research.

Parents are being warned about the impact of technology on young children, with doctors saying many can barely hold a pencil by the time they start school.

The overuse of touchscreen devices is being blamed for preventing children from developing the muscles needed in their fingers to hold a pencil correctly.

Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, Sally Payne, a leading paediatric occupational therapist, said "Children are not coming into school with the hand strength and dexterity they had 10 years ago.

"Children coming into school are being given a pencil but are increasingly not be able to hold it because they don't have the fundamental movement skills.

"To be able to grip a pencil and move it, you need strong control of the fine muscles in your fingers. Children need lots of opportunity to develop those skills."

Parents opting to give children digital devices is affecting their development, Payne added.

"It's easier to give a child an iPad than encouraging them to do muscle-building play such as building blocks, cutting and sticking, or pulling toys and ropes. Because of this, they're not developing the underlying foundation skills they need to grip and hold a pencil."

While many schools have adopted more technology, such as tablets, in the classroom, handwriting is still considering an important skill.

How you can help your child hold a pencil

Speaking to the Huffington Post, Sari Ockner, an occupational therapist at Kidz Occupational Therapy, recommends getting your child to use smaller crayons or shorter pencils to help strengthen the muscles in their fingers.

Using 'pencil grips' and getting your children to write on different surfaces like a chalkboard or an easel may also help them develop dexterity in their hands.