Hand Strengthening Activities

  • Hand Strengthening Activities

    Compiled by Carrie Lippincott, OTR/L

    To be able to properly hold a pencil, the hand must be strong enough to maintain an open web space or to use the thumb in opposition. These activities strengthen the gross grasp of the hand to be able to move onto skillfully using the thumb in opposition. These activities, most of the time, naturally position the hand and fingers in the proper position and do not normally require close monitoring of the hand motions. Just make sure when your child begins one of these activities, that the thumb is grasped around the object and not just placed along side of the index finger (thus not using the thumb). If your child positions his or her thumb properly, they can do these items with minimal supervision.

    1. Squirt Bottles Use a squeeze bottles to mist household plants. Use it to make spray pictures on a chalk board. Squirting off shaving cream with a spray bottle filled with water colored by food color is a popular activity! It also works best for hand development, to teach student name to place the ring, little fingers around the neck of the bottle and use the index and middle fingers to activate the trigger.

    2. Sopping Sponges Use a half cylinder foam or sponge to sop up water and then squeeze it to transfer the water to another container.

    3. Hammering Use a hammer and pound large headed nails into cork, fiber board, styrofoam or other soft wood.

    4. Animal Walks Do different kinds of walking on hands, the wheelbarrow walk, bear walk, crab walk.

    5. Playground Equipment Let child spend time playing on playground equipment, the monkey bars, a swing. Anything that encourages gripping by the hands.

    6. PVC Pipe Building If you happen to have PVC pipe, let child use it to build objects with.

    7. Cutting with Scissors Cutting with scissors on different thicknesses of paper Be sure that child holds his/her scissors with the index finger not in the loop, but resting under the loop to better guide the scissors around curves.

    8. Gardening Scissors Cutting thin sticks or weeds with garden scissors

    9. Stirring Cooking activities that require stirring ( especially mixing      ingredients) are excellent for developing hand strength

    10. Play Dough Playing with play dough or modeling clay (recipe follows)


    11. Opening Jars Screwing and unscrewing jar lids

    12. Carrying Tote Bags Carrying tote bags or case with a handle that is heavy, but manageable.

    13. Hole Punch Using a hole punch on various thickness of paper.

    14. Tug of War Playing tug of war with a friend or dog; you can also do it with      just the fingers suing a coffee stirrer--make sure the index and thumb form an “O”


    Here's a recipe for Cooked Play Dough that turns out nice and smooth and keeps well:

    Cooked Play Dough (Toby School)

    In a large bowl combine:

    3 c. flour

    ½ c. salt

    1 Tbs. Alum (found in spice section)

    Make a valley and pour in:

    3 Tbs. cooking oil

    2 c. boiling water

    Food coloring

    Mix with a spoon until cool enough to mix with hands. Mix and then knead until smooth. Store in an airtight container when cool. This is a large batch, I usually put half of it in a bag and into the freezer until I need more.