Information provided by Paediatric Neurology Service and Occupational Therapy Service from KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group.

Hand and finger strength is important in supporting the development of fine motor skills in children. It is required in all aspects of hand use and object manipulation that a child performs as part of his/her daily routine or play, such as self-feeding with utensils, managing fasteners on clothing or writing with a pencil.

Children with neuro-developmental conditions may experience reduced strength in their hands and fingers, affecting participation in play and functional activities. You may be able to help your child work on his/her hand and finger strength through some common play activities at home. Some of these activities are listed below.

If your child presents with neuro-developmental concerns affecting hand strength, 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.

Safety precautions

  • 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.

Activity ideas to improve hand and finger strength

1. Play-dough and therapeutic putty play

  • Pull dough / putty apart with whole hand or fingers

  • Squeeze dough / putty with whole hand

  • Press cookie cutter into flattened dough / putty

  • Find hidden objects such as pegs, marbles, coins, beads by squeezing, pressing, or pinching dough / putty

  • Cut dough / putty using plastic knife or scissors

2. Water sprayers: Spray cans or water guns

  • Spray water onto pictures drawn with markers to make them ‘melt’

  • Spray plants or outdoor bushes

  • Water play during shower / bath by spraying on walls or on self

3. Sponge squeeze

  • Take 2 containers and fill one with water. Use the sponge to transfer water from one container to the other

4. Wringing out wet sponge / towel / washcloth

  • E.g. as part of clean-up activity or during bath-time

5. Squeezy toys

  • Squeezing toys (e.g. stress balls, rubber chicken) with whole fist

6. Paper tearing

  • Tearing with thumb, index and middle fingers of both hands

  • Change resistance of paper: Tissue paper, newspaper, thick card

  • Use pieces to form collages / classroom projects

7. Tug of war

  • Use a twisted towel or soft rope

8. Stamping and paper-punching

  • Make pictures or designs with rubber stamps / paper punchers of different sizes or handles

9. 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

  • Make ‘cages’ for toy animals by placing clothes pegs around the outside of a container / box

10. Handgrippers

Ref: K21