As any Occupational Therapist will tell you, hand and finger strength is important for every-day activities. There are over 25 muscles in your forearm and hand. The muscles in the forearm control elbow, wrist and finger movements. The smaller muscles in the palm of the hand control the more refined movements of the thumb and fingers. A strong grip mostly comes from the forearm muscles and only a small part of that grip comes from the small muscles in the hand. In some cases the large muscles of the forearm may overcompensate for weak inner hand muscles and the child may hold small objects such as a pen/pencil in awkward ways. Many children display poor muscle strength when asked to write for long periods of time, this can be a problem which effects their writing and examination technique as it can often lead to pain and fatigue in the hand.
Activities used to strengthen the small muscles of the hands involve materials and tools that provide resistance. Children need exposure to a variety of gross and fine motor activities to develop good hand strength.
A simple way to increase strength in the hand would be to squeeze resistive balls or putty, play-doh or blue-tack. These are excellent materials for squeezing, pushing and moulding. For the younger child, you could hide beads or pennies inside and try pushing them out.
Playing with blocks is also an excellent way to build hand and finger strength. Mega Blocks are large size Lego blocks and can be used for younger children. Lego and K’nex can be used for older children. There may be a Brickx club in your area where a child can meet with other children with an interest in Lego.
With summer approaching, water guns and spray bottles make resistance fun. Children can be encouraged to play outside with squirt toys or use spray bottles to help water plants and clean windows.
A clothes peg is a great tool for developing finger strength, try opening it by alternating each finger. Children of all ages enjoy the fun of making this activity a challenge. Ask the child to pick up small things with the clothes peg such as cotton balls, beads, raisins etc.
Bubble wrap is also great fun and can be used by the child either by pinching with the thumb and index finger or by pushing down on bubbles when the sheet is placed on a hard surface. Tongs, tweezers and connected chop sticks can be used to pick up small objects such as beads, Cheerios or peas.
All children and adults will benefit from these hand and finger strengthening exercises.