With all the focus on electronics and typing these days, parents may think that their child’s ability to develop a proper grasp, grip strength and even the ability to write is not as important as it used to be. But, the answer is YES, those things are all still very important, not only for the development of a child’s fine motor skills but their ability to learn overall.
On a functional level, kids also need that finger strength to climb, use the monkey bars, learn how to feed and get dressed by themselves and use school supplies like scissors and hole punches.
Grip strength and a proper grasp go hand in hand. They are crucial to a child being able to write their own name; often a required skill for entering kindergarten. As adults, we may do the majority of our written communication through typing, but being able to properly grasp a writing utensil, write your name and take notes are crucial lifelong skills still needed to exist in our world. Filling out a job application, paperwork at a doctor’s office or buying a new house are just a few real life examples of when those skills are needed.
Developing the proper tripod grasp needed for writing requires progressing through certain developmental milestones that begin as early as 3 to 6 months old. (See graphic to the left). We will cover that topic in our next blog.
Beyond the more functional skills related to grip strength and grasping that children need to develop in order to gain independence, researchers have also found a connection between how the brain transitions from right-brained learning (creative, emotions) to move left-brained learning (logical, critical thinking). If the brain isn’t able to switch from right-brained learning to left-brained learning, children become more emotional instead of logical as they get older. That can explain why many parents and teachers today see more attention issues in the classroom, sensory struggles, meltdowns, anxiety and difficulty controlling emotions.
Building your child’s hand grip will help the left side of the brain develop so they can learn more complicated learning processes like organization, staying on task, emotional control and even speech and language.
Luckily, there are many everyday activities that children can do at home (and in occupational therapy) to build their finger and hand strength:
Use play dough. One of our favorite things to play with because there are SO many benefits that children don’t even realize. Squishing, pinching, rolling and squeezing are great ways to strengthen hand and finger muscles.
Play legos. Smaller Lego bricks are great for older kids with more advanced skills, while the larger Duplo version is best for younger children.
Have your child help carry grocery or shopping bags.
Outside play. Dig in the dirt, shoveling sand, climbing a tree and using the monkey bars all engage hand and finger muscles.
Make them your little helper by helping with cooking or cleaning. Have them roll out the cookie dough, stir the tomato sauce or use a sprayer to water the plants or clean the table tops.
Tearing paper. Two hands working together to tear through paper is a simple and fun way to target hand strength.
These are just a few suggestions … The possibilities are endless!
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s fine motor skills, we can help!
Call us at 817-386-5500.