It’s one of the most common problem areas I see with kids in my pediatric occupational therapy practice: hand strength.
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Kids who struggle with hand strength may have difficulty with grasping a pencil, learning to use scissors, and managing clothing fasteners. They are also likely to struggle with handwriting and other classroom skills.
We look for a pattern of these red flags when we’re trying to determine whether a child has weak hands.
There are tons of creative and playful activities for kids that can target hand strength. Some of the best ideas involve building hand strength through everyday play! My favorites fall into three main categories: weight bearing activities, pushing and pulling activities, and squeezing activities. Check out these fun ideas for getting those little hands and fingers into shape!
Weight Bearing Activities for Kids
1 || Crawling – Try relay races, obstacle courses, and other games.
2 || Donkey kicks – Have the child bend forward to place his hands on the floor and then kick his legs up behind them like a donkey. Try it during a game of Line Tag!
3 || Wheelbarrow walks – Have the child place her hands on the floor while you or another child holds her feet. See how far she can walk on her hands. Try a wheelbarrow relay!
5 || Play in All Fours – Try playing board games, coloring, or playing with toys in a crawling position so the child is holding his weight on his hands.
Pushing and Pulling Toys and Activities for Kids
7 || Lego or Duplo blocks – Both awesome for developing grasp strength! Smaller Lego bricks are great for older kids with more advanced skills, while the larger Duplo version is best for the younger crowd.
9 || Connecting Beads – These large beads that pop together are great for strengthening the larger muscles of the hand and these pop beads are a smaller version, great for developing the precision muscles.
10 || Mr. Potato Head – A toddler and preschool favorite, this is a great starter toy for hand strengthening. The pieces are relatively big and easy to grasp and the repetition of changing the faces over and over again is great for strengthening!
11 || Rubber Bands – Kids can stretch and pull against the resistance to create masterpieces on a geoboard or try one of these fun rubber band fine motor activities! We also love this rubber band passing game and this easy fine motor activity!
12 || Pegs and Foam Pegboards – This is another great starter activity for young kids working on hand strength. The foam pegboards are a little tougher to push the peg into, providing resistance and a great opportunity for strength building!
13 || Tape – Pulling tape off of the roll and/or pulling it off of various surfaces (walls, tables, floors) is a great hand strengthener for kids. Check out these easy activities for kids using tape!
14 || Pop Toobs – These things are awesome. I’ve never met a kid who didn’t love the cool sound they make and the neat vibrating sensation when you pull them apart and push them together. Play a few rounds of tug of war with these little gems and you’ve got your hand strengthening in for the day!
15 || Rolling Pins – Grasping, pushing, and rolling with a rolling pin are great ways to strengthen little hands and fingers. Try it on play dough, bubble wrap, or during cooking activities!
16 || Theraband – This stretchy stuff is another great “tug of war tool”. There are all kinds of ways to pull on it and against it to strengthen hands – kids will be in love!
17 || Squigz – If you don’t know about these rad little suckers, you totally need to check them out. They’re fun, they’re colorful, they make a great little popping noise when you pull them – distracting kids from the fact that they’re getting a great hand workout!
18 || Climbing – Climbing on just about anything is awesome for building hand strength in kids. Think ropes, ladders, trees, jungle gyms, any playground equipment, and more!
19 || Tearing paper – Two little hands working together to tear through paper is a simple and fun way to target hand strength.
20 || Cooking with Kids – Kneading dough, stirring batter, scooping, cutting, you name it…if it happens in the kitchen, it’s probably a hand strengthener!
Squeezing Activities for Kids
21 || Playing with play dough, putty, or clay – Squishing, pinching, rolling, squeezing, smushing – all great for building muscles in the hands!
22 || Sponges – Get kids involved in chores where they have to wring out sponges or wet rags – clean house and strong hands? Don’t mind if we do!
23 || Spray bottles, water guns, squeeze bottles – Have a water fight in the backyard, have kids water your plants with a spray bottle, or try Erupting Rainbow Sidewalk Chalk Paint in a squeeze bottle!
25 || Clips and clothespins – Some of the most commonly used materials in my therapy practice! There are a zillion ways to play with clips and clothespins! This fun Monster Munch Fine Motor Game is my students’ favorite (and mine too)!
26 || Hole Punches – These little hand strengtheners come in all shapes and sizes – great for making hole punch crafts with kids!
27 || Scissors – Try cutting against resistance: thicker paper or cardstock, play dough or clay, or check out this cool idea for practicing scissors – great for visual motor skills and hand strength!
28 || Glue Bottles – Crafting with liquid glue is an easy way to help kids work on hand strength. Try this visual motor and hand strengthening quick tip!
29 || Turkey Baster – Squeezing the squishy end of a turkey baster…what could be more fun? Use one to blow pompoms across the table or try a turkey baster relay!
30 || Sensory Balloons – Fill balloons with dry rice, beans, flour, or play dough. Have kids squeeze and squish them in their hands to build strength. Check out this fun Baby Bumblebee Activity!
31 || Crumpling Paper – We love doing this during handwriting practice. Use smaller pieces of writing paper and have kids write sight words, spelling words, or short sentences on them. Then, crumple up each piece to shoot a basket into the recycling bin!
33 || Milking a Cow – Don’t have a real one? We didn’t think so. Try this fun fine motor strengthening activity instead – it’s one of our most popular activities here at The Inspired Treehouse!
34 || Bubble Wrap – It comes in all different sizes and kids love the sound it makes when they snap it between their fingers. The bubble wrap with the smallest bubbles is best for strengthening those Super Fingers, while larger bubble wrap can strengthen the whole hand!
Looking for more hand strengthening therapy tools for kids?
There are tons of fun and playful ways that we can help kids build hand strength in the classroom, in the therapy room, and at home! Stay tuned for the new Hand Strengthening Exercise Program – coming your way soon!
This 23-page printable digital child development resource is packed with more than 30 ideas for building hand strength through play and includes QR codes that lead to engaging video clips of each activity. The resource also includes printable cards with the scannable QR codes and suggestions for using them at home, in the classroom, or in the therapy room.