A child’s hand strength impacts many areas of their daily lives. This is why Occupational Therapy sessions usually include a hand strengthening activity. Hand strength affects a child’s ability to button and zip their own clothing, tie shoes, and manipulate eating utensils. At school, hand strength is required to grip a pencil and develop the endurance to complete the numerous writing tasks throughout the day. For younger children, hand strength is required for play activities such as climbing, playing with toys and coloring. Special equipment is not necessary for improving hand strength. Encouraging your child to participate in everyday activities around the house can help develop the hand strength they need.
Crawling is a wonderful hand strengthening activity! When your child crawls on the floor while playing, they are supporting their weight with their hands and knees. Weight bearing on the hands engages all the muscles in the hands and helps develop and strengthen them. Have crawling races with your children. It will strengthen them and use up some of their excess energy at the same time.
Include your child when you’re baking. Give them a small ball of dough to play with or let them help you with the main baking task. Using a rolling pin to roll out cookie or pie crust dough is a great activity to build hand and arm strength, as is gripping a cookie cutter and cutting out cookies. Gripping against resistance develops the muscles of the hand.
3. Bath Time
When your little one is taking a bath give them a sponge to play with. Squeezing the water out of a sponge is fun for them and good for their hands! In fact, using a sponge to wipe off the kitchen table, wash the car, or just for water play in the back yard is a fun way to “sneak” strengthening into the daily routine.
4. Do you garden?
Digging is another fun activity that builds the muscles necessary for a strong grip. Give your child a small trowel and let them plant alongside you. If you don’t garden, a sandbox or a tub of rice or dry beans are other options that provide the same benefits.
5. Watering Plants
Have your child use a spray bottle to water plants. Like squeezing a sponge, squeezing the handle of the spray bottle to squirt water develops the muscles of the hand and forearm in a way that is fun for your child – and this activity can take one chore off your list!
These are just a few activities you can incorporate at home to help your child develop the hand strength they need to complete their daily activities.
Elise Bondy COTA/L