Toggle site contrast Toggle Contract

Hand dexterity

What is hand dexterity?

It’s the ability to perform small, precise hand movements with flow and accuracy using the small muscles of your hand.

Your child’s hand dexterity is based on efficient development of foundation skills including:

  • proprioception (sense of self and body movement)
  • tactile processing (how our bodies interpret information from our sense of touch)
  • proximal stability (mobility and strength through the core)
  • in-hand manipulation
  • hand arch development
  • muscle strength.

We use these foundation skills to move small objects within our hand or use tools with precise detail. Hand dexterity is important for writing.

Helpful strategies to support your child’s development

It’s important to:

  • begin with larger activities involving one object
  • add more objects slowly as required
  • demonstrate to your child how to complete the activity
  • talk about what the fingers need to do.

Activity ideas

There’s lots of things you could do with your child including:

  • weight bearing through the hands to promote hand strength, for example flat hand printing, games on all fours and animal walks
  • picking up small objects with pegs, tongs or tweezers such as cotton balls, pompoms, beads and put them into a container or make a collage
  • asking your child to pop bubble wrap using their thumb and index finger
  • playing with water guns or squirting toys outdoors or in the bath
  • posting coins into a piggy bank
  • sticking things into sticker books or draw a line and ask your child to put stickers along the line.

Other creative ideas include:

  • sorting out a toolbox, putting screws, nuts and bolts in order, threading nuts onto the ends of bolts
  • making origami for folding and pressing
  • playing board games or other small games with small pieces for example, Jenga, snakes and ladders, battleships and Pick-up Sticks
  • playing with construction toys which need to be snapped together and pulled apart, for example, Stickle Bricks, magnetic blocks and Lego.

You could also try tearing paper into small strips and scrunching them into balls, placing and gluing them onto paper to make a mosaic/collage. Change things around by using different materials and textures, for example tissue paper, beads or cotton wool.