Check out some of our favorite ideas to build hand strength through everyday play!Strong hands are an important component of developmental skill building for all kids! Think about all of the functional tasks that kids use their hands for on a daily basis: opening doors, turning on faucets, buttoning clothing, holding and controlling a pencil… Pediatric occupational therapists spend all kinds of time creating and implementing programs designed to improve a child’s hand strength. And, at The Inspired Treehouse, we have posted many of our favorite ways to make little hands strong through card games, DIY fidgets, lists of our favorite toys and even weight bearing activities. But probably our favorite way to teach our families and kids to strengthen hands easily everyday is through play opportunities at home! We bet that you already have tons of stuff around that is great for making the entire hand strong. So let’s explore so of the ways that your child can build hand strength every single day through play!
Hand Strengthening Through Everyday Play
Climbing LaddersHolding onto those ladder rungs is a challenge for some kids! But keep practicing! The vertical surface of the ladder makes kids’ hands work hard to grip those rungs and stay on against gravity.
Monkey barsGrasp, release, grasp, release. Monkey bars are a great way to work the endurance of tiny hand muscles.
Play in QuadrupedMaintaining the hands and knees position promotes strengthening in so many muscle groups including the neck, core and hands! This weight bearing encourages co-contraction of the muscles which means the flexor and extensor muscles are working together to hold a child up!
Wheelbarrow WalksHave 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.
Animal WalksWalk like a crab, bear, donkey or inchworm to promote more weight bearing through the hands!
Tug of WarIf I were a kid, I’d be gripping that rope with all of my might to keep the other team from pulling me across the line! Which team has the stronger hands?
CartwheelsDoing a cartwheel is tough. It requires coordination, balance, lots of core strength, flexibility, and some good hand strength too.
Play Dough, Putty, or SlimeSquishing, pinching, rolling, squeezing, smushing – all great for building muscles in the hands! Putty can be purchased in different levels of resistance to make the challenge harder.
Mr. Potato HeadThe pieces of this game are relatively big and easy to grasp and the repetition of changing the faces over and over again is great for strengthening! Some of other recommendations for toys that do double duty as hand strengthening hits include Squigz, bathtub squeeze toys, wind-up toys, and Pop Beads.
Beach/Sand PlayA day at the beach (or in the sandbox) is another fun way to strengthen the hands. Kids can dig in the sand with their hands or shovels, build sand castles, and carry buckets of water or sand.
ChoresSimply helping around the house allows kids to use their hands and fingers in many different ways, which can help build strength. Try throwing laundry down the chute or into the washing machine/dryer, washing the car, washing floors/tables/windows/dishes, shoveling snow, raking leaves, taking out the garbage.
GardeningWorking and playing in the garden offer many opportunities for building strength in the hands. Have kids dig in the dirt with their hands or a shovel, pull weeds, lift and pour a watering can, and spraying plants with a spray bottle!
Office PlayKids love playing with “grown up” materials. Squeezing a stapler (with supervision), folding paper, using paperclips are all fun hand strengthening activities. 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 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.
Looking for more information and ideas about hand strengthening for kids?Check out our Hand Strength Red Flags for Kids and download the free checklist. Learn more about why kids’ hands aren’t as strong as they used to be. Find our all-time favorite ways to support hand strength in kids! And don’t miss these fun ideas for building hand strength through play!
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Claire Heffron is co-author at The Inspired Treehouse and a pediatric occupational therapist in a preschool/primary school setting. She began her career with a bachelor's degree in magazine journalism but quickly changed course to pursue graduate studies in occupational therapy. She has been practicing therapy for 10 years in public and specialized preschool/primary school settings. She is a mom to three funny, noisy boys and relies on yoga, good food, and time outside to bring her back to center.
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