Thumb opposition refers to a child’s ability to move his thumb and fingers to be able to touch one another.
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The typical full range of motion for thumb opposition allows us to reach the thumb to touch the base of the fifth finger (small finger) and begins to become functional during infancy as babies learn to grasp objects purposefully.
This is an incredibly important fine motor skill for kids, as it allows them to grasp and use tools and objects efficiently by rotating the thumb so it can touch the fingertips. Kids use opposition when they grasp eating utensils, a toy hammer, or a paint brush. They also use opposition of the thumb and fingers to grasp and manipulate small objects like a piece of cereal or a bead.
When the muscles that produce thumb opposition are strong, kids are also able to maintain a strong, open web space (the space between the thumb and index finger), allowing them to grasp writing utensils efficiently without becoming fatigued. Abnormal pencil grasp patterns (e.g. wrapping or tucking the thumb) can often be attributed to weakness in the muscles that are responsible for thumb opposition.
There are many fun ways to help kids work on this important developmental skill. Whenever kids are working on grasping skills, they’re also working on opposition. Here are some great ways to practice:
-Squeezing clips and clothespins
-Use finger puppets to help kids become familiar with the movement of the thumb toward their fingers. Have the “thumb puppet” try to “kiss” each of the puppets on the other fingers. You could even try making your own finger puppets!
-Try some fun fingerplays with kids to work on opposition in a playful way.
-Pushing and pulling pegs in and out of peg boards
-Playing with tongs and tweezers. Try this Feed the Elephant activity to add a little interest and imagination!
-Squeezing and squishing are great for developing strength in the muscles of the thumb and hand.
-Kids love this Baby Bumblebee Song and Activity – one of our most popular activities!
-This Tennis Ball Monster Activity is always one of my kids’ favorites in OT sessions.
-Play with water using eye droppers. We also like to add some food coloring, mixing the colors to try different combinations!
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