Children with Neurological Conditions: Activities to Improve Hand Coordination
KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) Paediatric Neurology and Occupational Therapy departments share activities to help improve hand coordination in children with neuro-developmental conditions.
Engaging in basic craft activities
can help a child with a neurological condition improve hand coordination.
Information provided by the departments of Paediatric Neurology and Occupational Therapy from KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group.
Children with neuro-developmental conditions may face challenges in carrying out dexterous tasks in play and functional activities as these require the ability to manipulate tools/toys or items with precise and coordinated movements of the hand. You may be able to help your child work on his/her hand and finger coordination through some common play activities at home. Some of these activities are listed below.
If your child presents with neuro-developmental concerns affecting hand dexterity / coordination, please consult your occupational therapist for specific hand function goals and relevant recommended activities before getting started. Your occupational therapist will also be able to advise on the suitability of activities in accordance to your child’s developmental level.
Ensure your child is well supported and seated/standing in a stable position.
Start with an easy task before progressing to something more challenging.
When introducing a new activity, demonstrate the task especially during the first few attempts. Provide hand over hand assistance or consider breaking up the activities into simple steps where necessary.
Allow your child time to practise and feel comfortable in the presented activity.
Praise your child for his attempts and successes to reinforce his efforts and encourage participation!
Provide supervision during activities to ensure safety, especially when learning to use tools or sharps, or when introducing small manipulatives. If your child is in the mouthing phase, choose larger-sized, developmentally appropriate toys and manipulatives.
7 Activities to promote hand coordination
1. Play-dough/ Therapeutic putty
Create small balls, long rolls, or pretend pancakes
Using one hand and rolling the dough/putty on the table
Rolling dough/putty between both hands
Using thumb, index and middle finger to roll dough/putty into small ball
Using finger pads to squeeze the dough/putty
Manipulate dough/putty with fingers or simple tools to create objects/figurines e.g. snake, sausage, snowman, etc
Pulling apart dough/putty to find hidden “treasures” (e.g. beads, beans, buttons)
Drawing in flattened play-dough using tools such as chopsticks, dough cutter, pencil
2. Stringing or lacing activities
3. Finger isolation activities
Eye droppers: Use as part of table top art activity, or during bath time. Water can be mixed with food colouring to make “dribble pictures”.
Coins and buttons: Pick up coins/ buttons as part of counting/ matching/ sorting game, making designs with buttons. Turn over pieces without bringing over edge of table.
Pick up small objects with thumb and index finger (e.g. raisins, crumbs, pegboard pins, beads, beans).
Finger puppet play
Flicking games (e.g. marbles, clay balls, rolled-up paper balls, finger soccer)
4. Constructional play/ puzzles
Wooden inset puzzles with varying sizes of knobs/ pegs atop puzzle pieces
Jigsaw puzzles with puzzle pieces in varying shapes/sizes
3-D constructional puzzles
Bolts and nuts
5. Tweezers, tongs, and pegs
Experiment with different sizes and stiffness of tweezers, tongs or pegs to pick up items
Pick up different objects, graded by texture, size and shape
6. Craft activities
Craftwork with scissors and glue
Paint shapes/ figures using paintbrush, string, sponge, toothbrush
Finger painting using fingers, fingers, fist or hand
Paper folding or origami (e.g. into a fan, boat, box, paper chain)
7. Daily activities at home
Dressing up and managing own or doll’s buttons, zips, shoelaces
Pouring water into containers with openings of various sizes (e.g. mugs, bottles)
Turning taps on/ off
Baking fun: Using rolling pin, cookie-cutting, simple cake/biscuit decorating
Food preparation: Spreading butter/ jam on bread, stirring drinks, grating cheese/ carrot, peeling fruits, making meatballs, fishcakes or anything that has to be rolled/ shaped