Here are some activities to help improve hand strength:
- Stirring batter or dough with a large spoon: This activity will help improve your child’s grip strength in both hands; one holding the bowl and one stirring with the spoon. The child will be motivated by the desirable end product, which could be brownies, cookies, or even play-doh.
- Squeeze, roll, and play with play-doh or silly putty: Play-doh and silly putty can be used to encourage pinch and grip strength by having your child make balls, pinch them into pancakes, squeeze them into a long snake, etc.
- Climbing up ladders or playground equipment: Holding on to ladders, monkey bars or climbing equipment will help improve functional grip strength, as the child must support their body with their hands.
- Buckles and snaps on clothing, helmets, etc.: Encourage your child to learn and complete difficult fasteners on their clothing and accessories. This will help promote independence and hand strength for everyday tasks.
- Tennis ball friend: Cut a slit in a tennis ball and draw eyes on it to make a puppet. Have your child ‘feed’ the tennis ball different small objects by squeezing the tennis ball with their hand to open the slit.
- Craft projects with hole punchers/ staplers: Using hole punchers and staplers are difficult hand tasks that require a lot of strength. Challenge your child to create a whole art project using only these two items.
- Cutting different thicknesses of paper: Using different thicknesses of paper will turn a cutting activity into a strengthening activity. Challenge your child to progress from thinner to thicker papers (for example, computer paper, to construction paper, to poster board, to cardboard, etc).
- Squeezing a glue bottle: Create a raised maze with glue and when it is dry, have your child color it in. Another option is to put paint in old glue bottles and have your child squeeze the paint out to make a picture.
- Putting together and taking apart Legos: Legos are a great activity for strengthening all fine motor skills. To add an extra challenge, push two legos together very tightly and then have the child try to pull them apart.
- Play with clothespins: This will promote the strengthening of small muscles in the fingers for improved pinch strength. Some ideas for clothespin use are: hanging things on a string, moving game pieces, and picking up small snacks.
Performing these activities will help encourage proper finger strength, which promotes independent self-care, academic success, good play skills, and overall improved function on a daily basis. If you have concerns regarding your child’s finger and hand strength or fine motor performance, please seek out an occupational therapist for a consultation or an evaluation in order to help your child achieve their potential.