It all started with a simple question “What would you recommend as a good starter pen for a 4 year old?”
I posted this on the FountainPenNetwork on April 20, 2009. Within 24 hours, I had some very good advice from members of the forum, as well as pointed suggestions that only an unfit parent would subject a child of four to the pressures of using an unsuitable writing instrument.
As a tool for writing, fountain pens are inherently incredibly versatile – choose favorite ink and color or make a personal blend, adjust the nib to one’s hand, adjust line weight on the fly. Having used fountain pens for years, I can safely say that I have kept hundreds of disposable pens from landfills. There’s no real downside, except the impression a lot of people seem to have about these devices being difficult to use, hence unsuitable for children.
Having shown interest in my fountain pens for months, it seemed natural that my daughter should have a fountain pen of her own. She is four, with good motor skills and an overwhelming preference for all things pink. She has small hands and has also been known to drop things. As such, a regular fountain pen seemed out of the question – too heavy and ungainly to hold, with a tendency to self destruct easily if dropped. The pen also needed to be a good writing / drawing pen with smooth and reliable flow of ink – one could not expect a child to deal with or remedy inconsistent ink flow. We needed something lightweight, something relatively slim, durable, inexpensive, and pink.
This is the story of the pens that made the cut :
Pilot Petit1 Mini Fountain Pen – Baby Pink
Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen – Fine 03 Nib – Pink Ink
Pilot Vpen Disposable Fountain Pen – Fine Nib – Pink
In all instances, a M nib would probably have worked better – none of these pens seems to be available in that nib width either in the US or in Japan.
Right out of the bag, the Petit was the clear favorite. A combination of size [small enough to be held comfortably by a child], appearance [most toylike] and color [how could a girl of four not like Baby Pink?] made it the one. It writes well and comes with a nicely made bubble container for extra cartridges. But is not smooth enough for drawing [to a child who is just learning to how to write, forming letters on paper is akin to drawing : a collection of arcs and straight lines all converging like so many images – unlike the adult, to whom the placement of letters on paper becomes second nature], which was unfortunate since it has everything else going for it.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Vpen was a big success visually – clad mostly in metallic grey, it is the least toylike of the bunch, other than the swirl pattern and the bright pink endcaps. Less surprising was its #1 rating as the best pen for writing and drawing – good flow of ink with a nib that’s not too, too fine, and a generally more forgiving nature than the others – just what the child needed to stay involved. I carry a black Vpen as a reliable backup instrument at all times – this will come as no surprise to those familiar with the pen.
Much as I really wanted to like the Platinum – it is quite attractive with its transparent body and color coded metallic pink nib, it turned out to be the least attractive as a writing instrument. In a pinch, I’m sure it would be preferable to use this rather than a roller pen or a ball point, but that’s faint praise. While the nib felt smooth, the inkflow was spotty and contributed to the overall inconsistent performance.
These were the criteria the pens had to meet to be included in this post : the pens had to be inexpensive [around $3, or about the same as a good pencil or two], attractive, good writers and somewhat forgiving. There are, of course, other perfectly good pens out there designed especially for children to use, such as the Pelikano Junior and the Lamy ABC, but none are as inexpensive as the three featured in this post. There are also any number of inexpensive and reasonably sized pens for adults that could also be used by children.
All the pens featured in this post are available at Jetpens.com – good stuff, good service.
Think more, Write more – it is a dying art which children should, at the very least, be made aware of. And I can think of no writing instrument that can be experimented with to this degree and made one’s own through regular use – try new inks, mix your own, discover the joy of putting pen to paper – have fun!