In today’s digital age, while the focus is often on digital communication, the art of handwriting still holds significant value for children to cultivate. Learning to write using both pencil and pen offers a double benefit to children’s handwriting development and overall handwriting enjoyment. Developing proficiency in both pencil and pen writing is crucial for children as it enables them to harness the advantages of both skills. Child development expert Dr. Sara Smilansky explains, “Pencils give children the opportunity to correct mistakes without feeling discouraged or overwhelmed. This helps build confidence and encourages them to continue practicing.” Research published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology found that using a pen can improve spelling and overall writing quality. The study suggests that using a pen helps children write more quickly and accurately, and that it can have a positive impact on their spelling and writing ability.

The Pen Licence

In numerous UK schools, children impatiently anticipate the magical day when their teacher grants them permission to trade their pencils for pen, marking a milestone in their writing journey. The transition from pencils to pens is seen as a momentous occasion, accompanied by awards and celebrations. It not only signifies the ability to write with precision, but also serves as a symbol of growing maturity, intelligence, and skill. However, this tradition can be unfair to those children whose handwriting may not meet the criteria for a pen licence, leaving them feeling disheartened and traumatised by not being granted this privilege.

While some schools have policies that mandate transitioning from pencils to pens between the ages of 7-9, it is vital to consider each child’s individual abilities, rather than solely relying on their age as a determining factor. Evaluating the potential benefits of such a transition on their confidence and self-esteem is crucial. Waiting for a child to achieve a perfect handwriting style before introducing pen use may not always be feasible, as achieving flawless handwriting may not be attainable for everyone. Placing too much emphasis on achieving a certain level of handwriting perfection before allowing the use of pens may unnecessarily hinder a child’s progress and limit their writing opportunities. Handwriting is a skill that improves with practice over time, and the use of pens can actually contribute to enhancing a child’s writing technique and legibility.

Furthermore, denying a pen licence to children whose handwriting may not meet a certain standard can have negative effects on their self-esteem and motivation. It can create a sense of unfairness and exclusion, leading to feelings of inadequacy and discouragement. It is essential to consider the potential impact on a child’s emotional well-being and foster a positive and inclusive learning environment that encourages their writing development at their own pace.

boy writing with a pen double benefit writing with a pencil


Benefits of Writing with a Pen

Benefits of Writing with a Pencil

Neater Appearance: Pen ink typically produces clearer, sharper lines compared to pencil, resulting in a neater overall appearance.
Pencils offer more friction on paper, sometimes resulting in neater handwriting compared to ballpoint pens.
Pen ink is permanent and less likely to fade over time, requiring children to exercise more care and precision in writing.
Pencils are easily erasable, allowing for easy correction of mistakes and changes, which boosts confidence and encourages continued practice.
Pens usually glide more smoothly across paper, allowing for faster writing speeds and improved efficiency.
Pencil marks are easily alterable, providing flexibility in writing and drawing, and allowing for easy changes and modifications.
Pens are always sharp, do not need sharpening regularly, which can be inconvenient and time-consuming.
Pencils do not require ink, so there are no issues with ink drying out, leaking, or running out.
Pen lines are sharper and clearer compared to pencil ink, resulting in a potentially more polished appearance.
Pencils are versatile as they can be purchased varying in hardness.
Pens come in a wide range of ink colours, allowing for greater creativity and expression in writing.
Pencils can be used from different angles to create different textures.
 Writing with a pen, especially when awarded a “pen licence,” can boost a child’s confidence and sense of achievement.
The dots on some triangular pencils act as an indicator where to place fingers. (ie Faber- Castell Grip 2001- see below.)
Children can apply pressure on a pen without compromising neatness, whereas pressing hard on a pencil can result in visible marks.
Mechanical pencils do not require constant sharpening so can be used without interruption.


double of benefit of writing with a pen.                                            left handed double the benefit

Benefits of Using both Pencils and Pens

Using both pencils and pens in the process of learning handwriting provides dual benefits for handwriting development and overall learning. Using both tools allow children to develop different skills and learn how to adapt to different writing surfaces. As child development expert Dr. Sara Smilansky explains, “Using both pencil and pen can help children learn how to adjust their writing based on the tool they are using. This can help them become more versatile writers and better adapt to different writing situations.”

Learning to write in both pencil and pen is essential for children’s handwriting development and overall learning. Using a pencil allows children to make mistakes and easily correct them, boosting their confidence and encouraging them to continue practicing. Writing with a pen requires more control and precision, which can help children improve their fine motor skills and develop more legible and confident handwriting. Using both tools help children develop different skills and become more versatile writers.

The cursive Magic Link handwriting programme is designed for children who are 6 -18 year olds and focuses on teaching neat cursive handwriting. The programme encourages children to use both pencil and pen, as each tool provides unique benefits that can help children develop their writing skills in different ways. The non-joined Magic Link programme is recommended for younger children, aged 5, allowing them to follow this highly-structured course at home.