Some fun activities and games that will assist in developing little miss or mister's hand strength and finger isolation include:
- Using playdough, therapy putty, plasticine or clay (e.g. squeezing, rolling, pinching, pushing, rolling into little balls)
- Threading and lacing activities (e.g. threading macaroni or beads onto string)
- Using children's tweezers (connected chopsticks) or tongs to pick up objects such as dry cereal, pieces of fruit salad and cotton wool balls
- Tearing paper, scrunching it up and pasting it to paper to make a collage
- Using clothes pegs on plastic plates and cups (or even asking your little one to help you peg the washing)
- Doing hand exercises such as prayer pushes, finger squeezes, piano moves and finger opposition (*see below for details)
- Singing songs that have finger movements such as 'Open, Shut Them', 'This Little Piggy' and ‘Where is Thumbkin?'
- Hiding beads, chick peas, coins and so on in playdough and inviting junior to dig them out with their fingers (using the pincer grip of the thumb and pointer/2nd finger together)
- Playing with water using spray bottles, water guns, squeeze toys and sponges (e.g. using spray bottles to move plastic balls)
- Hole-punching paper to make confetti
- Popping bubble wrap using their pointer (2nd) finger and thumb
- Using an eye dropper, bulb syringe (found in the baby section at the shops) or turkey baster to squirt water or make patterns with food colouring on paper towel
- Playing with Lego or construction blocks
- Finger painting
* Example hand exercises include: prayer pushes – pushing their hands together while in a prayer position; finger squeezes – squeezing each finger with their opposite hand; piano moves – playing or pretending to play a piano with their hands flat and lifting each finger individually; and finger opposition – touching each finger individually to the thumb.
Some additional tips for improving your child’s hand strength and finger isolation
Encouraging your youngster to extend their wrist while they’re doing fine motor tasks will help develop these skills.
To do this, use a ‘vertical plane’ (upright surface) in activities such as colouring in, drawing and learning letters. Examples of vertical planes include chalk on a wall outside, butchers paper taped to a wall, easels, whiteboards and blackboards.
You can also place little miss or mister’s paper/pad on a foolscap or lever-arch file for tabletop activities, angled so their writing page is on the slant of the file with the highest point of the file being furthest away from junior.
Wherever possible in day-to-day activities, encourage your child to use their ‘crab pinch’ (thumb and pointer/2nd finger pads together) as this helps with both hand strength and finger isolation development.
Basically, strengthening the 'crab pinch' results in a stronger ‘pincer grasp’ (thumb and pointer/2nd fingertips together), which assists with most of the fine motor tasks and is especially important for pencil grip and pencil control.