One of the main reasons students may get referred to OT relates to difficulty with fine motor skills and handwriting. Kids are not necessarily playing the same way they used to, which can really impact development of important motor skills, especially hand strength. Today, let’s explore why hand strength is important, what it looks like when a child has decreased hand strength, and how you can work on hand strength at home or in your classroom.
Why is hand strength important?
Having adequate hand strength is essential for many daily skills, like dressing, opening containers and manipulating various tools like crayons and scissors. When little hand muscles are strong, it leads to children completing tasks with a higher level of independence.
What does it look like when a child has decreased hand strength?
If a child has decreased hand strength, especially in the little muscles of the hand in between the thumb and index finger, you may notice that he has a hard time holding a pencil properly. The child will likely hold the pencil with a fist past when it is appropriate. The child may give up easily on fine motor tasks or have visible difficulty during daily routines, such as during dressing tasks or opening/closing containers. You may notice the child seems to use her whole hand to try to do refined tasks, which is a way to compensate for decreased hand strength.
What can you do?
If you notice a child has difficulty with fine motor tasks, please be sure to reach out to your OT for specific recommendations. Below, I will list a few activity ideas that are good for all students to work on hand strength. Many of them you may already have in your classroom or home routines.
1. Play with Playdough or Putty
Using playdough is one of the easiest ways to work on hand strength with young children. There are a few fun ways you can do this. You can encourage the child to roll the dough, pinch and squeeze the dough, or use utensils in the dough. Additionally, theraputty is another fun option. It has a different texture, and there are varying levels of resistance, but it is another great tool to have. I love to hide little items, like beads or erasers, in the putty for the child to find. It is one of my go to warm up activities that my students always love!
2. Play Games with Tweezers and Clothespins
Using tweezers and clothespins are awesome, easy ways to engage the small muscles of the hand that are super important for things like holding a pencil. A few of my favorite simple activities include: using tweezers to put pom poms in containers, using tweezers to sort items, and matching clothespins to corresponding colors or letters.
3. Hands On Activities
Anytime you have an opportunity to allow a child to use their hands during play is important. In this day and age of remote learning especially, it is important to make sure those hand muscles are engaged. Let kids try to open their containers, help with dressing, feed themselves or engage in messy play or cooking activities. One super easy trick – swap out glue sticks for bottle glue sometimes, it is a great way to work on hand strength! Check out one of my posts here and one of Sasha’s posts here for even more ideas!
Building hand strength is so important! With a little creativity, you can find ways to incorporate hand strengthening opportunities into your daily routines. What are some of your favorite ways to work on hand strength?
This blog is for informational purposes only. Please contact your OT for specific recommendations.