Pencil grip and strong hands go hand in hand! Developing efficient pencil grip includes developing finger dexterity and coordination – these are all part of the equation when it comes to strengthening your hands. Here are some effective and fun hand strengthening activities for kids.
Fine Motor Strengthening Activities to Develop Hand Strength
Occupational therapists help their clients reach a higher level of functionality through the use of functional tasks. By improving hand strength, these specialists are enabling children to gain control over seemingly mundane everyday activities – from brushing teeth to buttoning their coats – and in turn developing much-needed independence.
A child with weak hands will have difficulty doing basic and common tasks, and when this happens, it prevents them from being able to do even more complex self-help tasks.
Why Does Hand Strength Matter for Preschoolers?
Kids are entering classrooms with a lack of finger muscle strength, hindering their ability to complete everyday tasks.
According to British pediatricians this is due in part to the over reliance on technology and less time doing traditional fine motor activities such as lacing cards, stringing beads or coloring. The Heart of England Foundation NHS Trust conducted an alarming review which signals that these skills can no longer be taken for granted among today’s youth.
Weak hand muscles can make even the simplest of tasks a challenge for children. From writing, to using scissors and opening containers – all require healthy grip strength as well as dexterity in order to be completed with ease. Grip strength has been found to be a strong correlate with legible writing.
FAQ About Developing Hand Strength in Children
From muscle tone and finger strength to wrist stability and arm range of motion, there is a lot of uncover when it comes to hand strength. It’s a very complex topic that is impacted by many components.
One thing that makes a big difference in fine motor dexterity is addressing separation of the sides of the hand. For more information about the intricacies of hand strength, check out this post by a board certified occupational therapist.
Many everyday activities can reveal if a preschooler has weak hand strength. Struggling with hand strength can be a major obstacle for children in school and beyond. From gripping pencils to managing clothing fasteners, or even manipulating food containers – these everyday activities require fine motor skills that may become impossible if hands are too weak.
Signs that your child lacks hand strength include (but are not limited to): decreased interest in fine motor activities, poor motor control, difficulty opening and closing scissors, lack of coordination in self feeding, or inability to zip and fasten clothing.
Engaging and enriching activities are the key to building your child’s hand strength! Luckily, there are many fun ways to improve a child’s hand strength. The best way to improve overall strength is through meaningful and motivating activities…especially everyday play!
Children can develop hand strength by doing squeezing, pulling, pinching, and pulling activities, as well as activities that develop the finger and thumb coordination in a dynamic tripod grasp. It’s all connected!
Hand Strengthening Activities for Preschoolers
Like any area of development, you can spend all the money you want in toys and equipment for hand exercises that lead to through all the stages of pencil grasp development. But the ideas shared in this post will only include the most basic and inexpensive tools that you probably already have in your home or classroom.
Hand Strengthening Exercises Using Squirt Bottles
Squeezing activities that use squirt bottles are another way to develop muscle strength in the hands and fingers. It’s also a lot of fun, too! Don’t limit yourself to just spray bottles. You can use just about any kind of plastic “squeezable” bottle, and don’t forget about squirt guns, either. Try some of these:
- traditional spray bottles
- squirt guns
- empty liquid glue bottles
- condiment bottles
- glitter glue
- foaming soap pump
- empty water bottles
10 Squirting Activities for Increasing Hand and Finger Strength
- Add applesauce bottle caps another small, floating manipulative to a shallow bin of water and use the spray bottle to squirt the caps.
- Turn the nozzles to full spray and give houseplants the extra humidity most need by spraying down the leaves.
- Use sidewalk chalk to write the letters of your child’s name and then use a squirt gun to squirt the letters until they disappear.
- Set up two bins: one that has empty glue bottles filled with various colors of water and a second bin that is empty. Squeeze the water from the glue bottles into the second bin and mix the colors.
- Or use condiment bottles to do the same activity, but add dried water beads to the second bin. Watch the water beads grow as more and more water gets squeezed into the bin.
- Let you child squeeze out their own paint. Use a rolling pin to spread the paint.
- Squirt lots of paint on a large sheet of butcher paper and then bounce balls on the paper to paint.
- Add soap pumps of colored soap to the water sensory table. Here is a recipe to make your own soap pump solution.
- Place small water-proof toys (like dinosaurs) in the bottom of a sensory bin. Use a soap pump to cover the dinosaurs.
- Puncture the lid of a plastic water bottle to make a spout. Then fill the water bottle and squeeze hard!
Squirting Items in Our Fine Motor Box
Hand Strengthening Exercises Using Playdough
Playdough is a classic tool used for hand strengthening activities in preschool. It’s enjoyable by everyone and the benefits are truly endless. You can use homemade playdough recipes, (which I will list below for you), or you can use store bought.
- fool-proof playdough without cream of tartar
- silky smooth playdough recipe
- orange creamsicle playdough recipe
- gingerbread flavored edible playdough
- 45 other playdough recipes to try
10 Playdough Activities for Developing Hand Strength
- Hold a ball of playdough in the palm and practice using the thumb to press into the ball, making an indentation.
- Mix two playdough colors together by smooshing and squeezing.
- Flatten playdough to make pancakes.
- Rest playdough pancake on the fingertips and then spread the fingertips to spread the playdough more.
- Hide a small toy inside the playdough and pass it to a friend to find.
- Make a ball of one color, then cover it with a second color. Then squeeze and smoosh the playdough together to make a new color.
- Make playdough ropes or snakes and freeze. Then use scissors and snip the ropes into smaller pieces.
- Roll balls of dough between the thumb and pointer/middle fingers.
- Make a maze for a ping pong ball. Blow the ball through the maze with a straw.
- Use playdough mats for form letters and shapes.
Playdough Tools in Our Fine Motor Box
Just click the image below to find out more.
Hand Strengthening Exercises Using Clothes Pins and Clamps
Clothing pins don’t cost very much and can be found at your typical grocery store or dollar store. Like other fine motor tools, there are a lot of different kinds of clothes pins and clamps, and they all challenge and work those hand muscles in different ways.
- clothing pins
- heavy duty clothing pins
- magnetic chip bag clips
- binder clips
- hair clamps
- woodworking clamps
10 Clothes Pin Activities for Finger Strength (and Hands too!)
- Transfer small items like pom poms from one container to another using clothing pins.
- Squeeze game cards. How many game cards can be added to the same clothing pin or clamp. Add only one card at a time for lots of pinching practice.
- Make a fort using woodworking clamps, then add a banner using clothes pins.
- Pick up curled pipe cleaner or yarn with hair clamps.
- Hang socks from a line.
- Make clothespins animal crafts, like this one.
- Create “splat” afterwork like this.
- Place different kinds of clamps on a baby gate or wooden dowels.
- Get several paper cups and write a number 1-10 on each one. Then clip the corresponding number of clothing pins or clamps on each cup.
- Pretend to be a claw grabbing machine and use clamps and clips to pick up small stuffed animals.
Clips and Clamps in Our Fine Motor Box
Just click the image below to find out more.
Hand Strengthening Exercises Using a Sponge
Sponges are a really inexpensive tool for developing fine motor skills and hand strength. Not all sponges are the same, so try to offer your preschoolers a range. Many different kinds can be found at the dollar store.
- cleaning sponge
- automotive sponge
- natural ocean sponge
- biodegradable sponge
- Scrub Daddy sponge
- make-up sponge
10 Sponge Activities for Strengthening Hands
- Transfer water from one bin to another using only a sponge.
- Use two hands to wring out a large automotive sponge.
- Cut sponges into smaller pieces and use a garlic press or potato masher to wring out the water.
- Hold a small sponge in the palm of the hand while practicing pencil grasp.
- See how many small sponges can be held in one hand. Squeeze a little more as another sponge is added.
- Add water to two bins. Color each bin with a different color or water. Transfer water from one bin to another using only a sponge and watch the water change colors.
- Use tongs or jumbo tweezers to wring the sponges.
- Practice finger movements and finger isolation by squeezing sponges between the fingers and not using the while hand.
- Using liquid watercolor, create a drip painting by squeezing the watercolor-filled sponge onto paper.
- Stretch out your hand on the table and place a small sponge under each finger tip. Practice pushing down on each sponge, one at a time (as though playing the piano).
Sponges in Our Fine Motor Box
Just click the image below to find out more.
Hand Strengthening Exercises Using Stress Balls
Stress balls are nothing new to the preschool classroom. And neither are sensory balls. Both provide important sensory input while also working on muscle strength because children can squeeze them hard. Like other fine motor tools, there are a lot of different kinds of stress and sensory balls, and they all challenge your preschoolers in different ways.
- traditional stress ball
- emotions foam balls
- Stretch and Pull Squeeze Balls
- medium knobby balls
- water bead squeeze balls
- mesh squeeze balls
- heavy balls
10 Stress Ball Activities for Improving Hand and Core Strength
- Provide a variety of stress balls and just squeeze! Squeeze hard, then soft, then hard!
- Roll a dice and squeeze the corresponding number of times.
- Offer stress balls while in line in the classroom, like walking to lunch or while waiting for parent pick-up.
- Try squeezing in different ways.
- pushing between hands (core strength)
- palms only
- thumb and fingers (with open space in hand)
- Transfer heavy balls from one end of the room to the other. Make it more challenging by following one of the grasps listed above. (Heavy balls will also work core stability).
- Listen to music and squeeze to the beat.
- Or play “Freeze Squeeze”. It’s like Dance Freeze, but by squeezing stress balls.
- Try squeezing the balls in different locations around the body.
- over the head
- behind the back
- over to one side
- Roll a die and then squeeze the stress ball for the corresponding number of seconds.
- Use stress balls for a sensory based foot massage! Take off your shoes and use one hand to roll the stress ball up and down the foot.
Stress and Sensory Balls in our Fine Motor Box
DIY Sensory Balls for Preschoolers
Manufactured stress balls will be more durable and last longer, but here are some DIY instructions for different stress balls you can make at home.
Get our Writing Curriculum!
Have you heard the news?! Stay At home Educator is developing a writing curriculum for preschoolers! Like all our literacy and math curricula, this will follow the daily lessons formatting, so you will know exactly what to teach, when to. teach it, and exactly how.
The preschool writing curriculum will focus on the following components of writing development:
- gross motor coordination
- core stability and strength
- hand strength and fine motor work
- pencil grasp development
- visual discrimination
- letter formation
Be the First to Know
This writing curriculum is still in development, but would you like to be the first to know when it launches? Fill out the form below and we will send you an email when it is available. And as a bonus, you will also have exclusive access to additional recourses related to the curriculum. (You might even get a copy for free!)
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.