The Best Pencils for Schoolwork, Based on Grade Level

What to look for when shopping for the right pencil to match your child’s age.

5 min read

When you ask Katelyn Rigg, a reading specialist at an elementary school in Lynchburg, Virginia, to talk about the picking the right pencil for your child, she gets animated — about the ones you shouldn’t add to your Doordash order.

“This is one time you don’t want to purchase something just because it’s cheaper,” says Rigg, co-founder of Literacy Learn, a site that aims to make reading fun for kids. “Dollar store pencils tend to break easily, and I promise these are the ones your kids’ teachers are donating or sending back in your kid’s backpack.”

Turns out, less expensive pencils will save money in the short term but may also be responsible for some classroom issues.

“Teachers get the most frustrated when kids keep getting up to sharpen their pencils during class,” Rigg says. “This is definitely why parents should pay for a known brand.”

Read on as we help you select the best pencils for writing and schoolwork to add to your back-to-school shopping order, based on your child’s age and grade level.

Pre-K - Kindergarten: Help your child get a grip.

When fine motor control isn’t developed, a grip or wedge can really help, Rigg says. “Pencil grips are the ones where you can put three fingers in,” she says. “They’re called silicone pencil holders and you put your thumb and pointer in and your middle finger wraps around the bottom. These are great and work just as well for lefties and righties.”


Product Pick: Pathways for Learning Grotto Grips (Staples)

First - Third Grade: The thicker, the better.

Now that your child is ready to perfect cursive writing, a thicker pencil can be helpful. “These oversized ones are easier for kids to hold while the triangle shape continues helping them learn the correct grip on the pencil itself,” she says. “They also help to enforce proper pencil control and this is important as kids get older and need to write faster and longer.” The best writing pencils for this age of learner would be something like the Ticonderoga My First Tri-Write pencils.


Product Pick: Ticonderoga My First Tri-Write Wood Cased Pencils (Staples)

Third - Fifth Grade: Graduating to a #2.

At this age, having a bunch of #2s on hand — with a good eraser — will make your child (and their teacher) happy on the daily. “You want your child to enjoy using a pencil,” she says. “The goal is also to avoid causing frustration in your child and you want to pick a brand with a point that won’t easily break — even when your child is pressing very hard on the page.” Ticonderoga gets our vote for the best #2 pencils. 


Product Pick: Ticonderoga #2 Pencils (Staples)

Middle School - High School: It’s all about mechanicals.

This in-between tween age is punctuated by big growth surges, whether it’s all about showing off a super sparkly pencil case covered with stickers or feeling cool clicking a mechanical pen during math class. “That said, mechanical pencils are great for kids at this age,” Rigg says. “You don’t have to get out of your seat to sharpen them, and they’re often smaller and more compact than old-fashioned #2s.” The best mechanical pencils for writing in class? BIC Xtra Strong. 


Product Pick: BIC Xtra Strong Mechanical Pencils, 0.9 mm, #2 hard lead (Staples)

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Staples