Activity Ideas to Improve Hand Strength and DexterityThis is a featured page

Play dough/cookie dough

Rolling it out, pulling it apart, forming a ball between the palms or a small ball with the fingers, pinching it with thumb and index finger, sticking fingers or thumb into it, hiding small objects inside it then finding and pulling them out kneading it, twisting it, using rolling pin, cookie cutter plastic knife, pizza cutter, snipping it with scissors, pushing it into a small tube, mixing with wooden spoon and any other ideas you can think of.

Squeezy toys and 'squeezy' activities

Toys that can be filled with water by squeezing them under water then squirting the water out to fill a cup or spray something, toys that make a sound when squeezed, stress balls, crushing tinned drink cans. Squeezy bottles can be filled with water, water guns with a squeeze trigger, wet sponges to squeeze dry.

Posting activities

Pushing pennies or dried pulses into a slot or hole in the top of a Pringles tin box or a plastic container. This gives more resistance and you can grade it by making the hole bigger or smaller.

Tearing activities

Tearing paper, junk mail etc into strips then crushing it into a ball and filling up a box to hide things inside. Encourage tearing with the thumb, index and middle fingers if strengthening the pencil grasp. You can also make a collage with the torn paper pieces.

Vegetable stamping

Cut vegetables such as onions and potato in half and dip in paint. Print on paper taped to wall to strengthen wrist and fingers, encourage child to press hard.


Use tongs of different sizes and stiffness to develop hand strength. Pick up objects such as cotton balls, marbles, small dried peas etc, this can be graded to increase resistance and skill.

Water play

Filling up containers and pouring out the water builds strength in the arm and hand. Good activity to develop visual-motor control. You can add food colouring to make it more interesting or thicken the water with corn starch.

Construction Toys

Construction toys that need strength to pull them apart or offer resistance when putting together. Examples are pull-apart toys, lego, wooden modelling kits. The kits also require motor planning so make sure they are not too high level for your child.

Elastic band pulls

Use elastic bands of different thickness resistance and have the child stretch them over pegs in a board or nails hammered into wood etc. It increases the benefits if the board is on a vertical surface.

'Washing the clothes' game

Have the child wash clothes or small cloths in a bucket then wring the water out and hang them on a washing line across the kitchen using clothes pegs. Some pegs are stiffer than others so match them to your child's ability. Clothes pegs can also be pushed down around the top of a box to make a cage for an animal at the zoo.

Waitress games

Carrying objects on a tray and increasing the weight gradually builds wrist and finger strength. It can be used to develop memory skills too by requesting the 'waiter' to bring you certain things.

Dish drying

Get some plastic dishes for your child to dry. Slightly slippery dishes need to be held very tightly! Good for bilateral skills too.

Sealing bags

Use Jiffy bags or equivalents that can be sealed by pressing the edges together. Get your child to use just the thumb and index/middle fingers if possible. They can fill it with snacks or small toys.

Tug of war

Great for increasing gross grasp strength and contraction in the bigger joints up the arms. Use a towel, sheet or soft rope in sitting or standing position. You can also lay your child on a slippery mat on his tummy and pull them around the room. They have to hold on tight to stay on!

Monkey bars

If you can find a park with monkey bars great! They are good for developing that gross grasp. You can count to help motivate your child to hang o for longer. Older children may be able to move from bar to bar. You can use a strong broom held between two adults for younger children at home.

Screwing and unscrewing

Use a variety of bottles and containers with screw tops to build finger strength. You can also get nuts and bolts to strengthen the small muscles in the fingers.


Using a play hammer helps to strengthen the wrist. There are commercially available hammering toys at outlets such as Toys R Us and Nurturecraft.

Sand Play

The beach is a great place to build motor skills. Digging and filling buckets strengthens muscles in the arms and hands. Finger writing in wet sand strengthens the index finger. You can also use a small stick to write with holding it like a pencil.

Buttering bread

Good for grasp strength and also provides an opportunity to develop bilateral skills and motor planning and sequencing skills.

Peeling fruit

Peeling fruit develops finger strength

Vertical drawing/vertical activities

Drawing on a vertical surface is an excellent way to improve grasp strength. You can use paper pinned to the wall or a blackboard/whiteboard. (A blackboard offers more resistance than a whiteboard). Break the chalk or crayon into small pieces of around half to one inch long as this helps to develop the tripod grasp and encourages a better wrist position. Working on an elevated vertical surface also improves shoulder stability. Do a variety of big movements including movements that make the child's arm cross the midline of the body. Small drawings and patterns encourage dynamic finger movement. You can also work on improving your child's conscious awareness of movement with eyes closed activities. For example, guide their hand to form a letter then have them guess what it is. Now have them try again on their own with eyes closed.

Latest page update: made by artyshoe , Apr 20 2009, 9:15 PM EDT (about this update About This Update artyshoe Edited by artyshoe

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