Fine Motor Fun ~ Hand Strength

     Continuing the 5 Days of Fine Motor Fun series, the focus today is on hand strength.

     There are 27 bones in the human hand and a complex network of tendons and muscles connected to them assist in the hand's movement. Each of the hand's muscles needs strength to be able to complete tasks such as popping the top on a drink can, turning a knob or a key, and picking up a cup. Strength and endurance can be built up with repetitive play.

Here are a few fun ways to increase hand strength:

Chinese therapy balls- strength, speed, control, and coordination are required to rotate the balls in your hand. I've seen smaller ones for children's small hands, but you have to again be aware of choking hazards. 

Clothing fasteners- Snaps, buttons, and zippers can be frustrating to a child who can't fasten them without help. Practice does help, but so does working on similar activities to build up those skills. Snaps can be very difficult, so make a game of seeing who can snap the same amount the fastest. See my review and giveaway of these snap bags which can be used as a fine motor, gross motor, and sensory aid and more. 

Play dough and clay- In rehab you will see various forms of therapy putty. They all serve the same purpose- strengthening your hands for improved function. Soft dough such as the kind used in applesauce ornaments is easy to squeeze. Homemade bread dough or play dough (recipe below) is a little firmer, and clay is even harder to squeeze. Begin with what is easy for your child to do and progress to activities that are more challenging. I like to end on a positive note and return to the easiest level to decrease frustration.

     With clay or dough of whatever consistency is a small challenge, have your child make small balls with their thumb and index finger and then squeeze them until flat. Or, roll it into a snake and then push down from one end to the other flattening as they go. For older kids, have them try to make a pinch pot or something more complex. Just playing with clay can be strengthening. 

Better Than Store Bought Play Dough

1 c. Flour                        1 pkg. Kool-Aid (your favorite color)
1/4 c. Salt                      1 T. Oil
2 T. Cream of Tarter       1 c. water

    Mix all ingredients in a medium pot. Cook over medium heat and stir for about 3-5 minutes. It will look like a gloppy mess at first. When the mixture forms a ball in the center of the pot, turn out and knead on a lightly floured surface. Store in an airtight container or ziploc bag, in the refrigerator. 
    This recipe was shared with me by a patient's mother my first year working, and it is still my favorite version of all the ones that I have tried.

***The information provided in this series has been simplified for generalization. I have not met your child so cannot offer individualized therapeutic advice. If you have a concern about your child’s fine motor skills or suspect a delay, seek a referral to a local Occupational Therapist. 

     This 5 day series FINE MOTOR FUN is a part of a larger series by 65 bloggers on the TOS Homeschool Review Crew. See all of the topics here. Be sure to click here for my Snap Bags giveaway.



  1. We love the Kool-aid play dough.

  2. My eleven year old just "graduated" from OT, and this post is a great reminder that I still need to make sure that I plan activities with therapy or other doughs.

  3. Great post. I am going to have to try the Kool Aid play dough!

  4. We love homemade play dough. We've never tried kool-aid though. We'll have to try that next! :)

  5. Great ideas for developing fine motor skills! I've never made my own playdough, but Kool Aid playdough sure does sound fun:)


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