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WHAT ARE HAND SKILLS?

WRITTEN BY SALLY HILLS-DAVIS, CHILDRENS OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST AND KIRSTY BROCKLEHURST, CHILDRENS PHYSIOTHERAPIST. FOUNDERS OF THE PRACTICAL CHILD.


Fine motor skills, hand skills, what does this actually mean and what are some hand skills? These are regular questions that we get asked at The Practical Child.


Hand skills are needed to perform daily tasks such as dressing, doing up zips and laces as well as buttons but also for school work such as cutting and writing.


Hand skills require the co-ordination of the muscles in the hands , thumbs and the fingers. In addition to this, you need good eye hand co-ordination, motor planning, muscle strength and the ability to undertake different grasps and grips. As well as this, the two hands need to be able to work together! It is no wonder why people are asking what are some hand skills!


Your baby and their brain develop very rapidly during the first 3 years of life ,so play and the different interactions that they encounter during this time, play an important role in their development. Helping your child with their development will benefit them in every way, not just now but in the future too. You can help your child with hand skills by undertaking different strategies and activities.


So what are hand skills? Even as young as 3 months a baby can open and close their hand, if you place a rattle in your baby's hand, they may briefly hold it, maybe bringing it to their face, banging their chin on the way. When lying on their back, you may notice your child watching the movement of their own hand in front of their face and engage in finger play. By 6 months they will start to grasp objects by using a raking grasp, often using two hands, occasionally one. They will may start to pass toys hand to hand. They begin to sit in a highchair and feed themselves finger food.



At around 9 months babies will begin to poke at and pick up small objects, with a pincer grip .They can release a toy from grasp by dropping or pressing against a firm surface, yet cannot put it down voluntarily.


Hand skills, at 12 months, start to develop further. The infant realises they can make noise! Banging toys together or on any surface that they can find. You may also notice that they hold items in the palm of their hand, in what is known as a palmer grasp. Hand skills take time to develop but the hands are amazing to watch!


By 18 months children become more curious, finding their nostril to poke their finger up and start to explore! This is when you have to watch every move. Light switches, electric sockets, washing machine buttons, if you have it, they will find it! These are hand skills!


At this time you can help your child to develop hand skills by getting your child to pick up items such as bricks, stacking them on top of each other, encourage your child to post in a shape sorter. The cylindrical grasp which is the grasp you need to hold an ice cream cone comes next with children being able to push or pull a pram or walker . Finger isolation ( using each finger in isolation such as pointing) is often difficult for children but once they learn to point, you know that this skill has begun to being learnt. A great way to help this process develop is by doing 'round and round the garden' on the hand and getting them to repeat this on yours.



Toddlers start to mark make on paper with crayons, may stack 2-3 blocks and sometimes, very annoyingly can pull off socks and shoes on a regular basis. It may seem hopelessly aggravating but yes, these are some hand skills! They start to hold a spoon with help from an adult and feed themselves as well as begin to hold their own cup.


Between 2 and 3 years of age, your child maybe developing further skills with mark making becoming more of a squiggle, side to side and up and down, they may even start to draw a misshapen circle. The pencil grip may also be developing, with them holding the pencil well down the shaft towards the point, using the thumb and two fingers, . Mostly in the preferred hand. Their manipulation skills develop also, with them being able to pick up tiny objects accurately and quickly.


You will also notice that they want to imitate domestic activities, being willing to help. This is a great way to encourage the use of hands and develop skills further. They maybe feeding themselves now competently with a spoon although may still be easily distracted! They may also be able to drink out of a cup.


Lastly, as you may have read previously in our blogs or in our posts in Instagram, hand skills develop by getting the shoulders nice and strong. Hands skills can develop of course on there own, but if you want to help move them forward further here are a few ideas.


  • For babies, provide rattles that they can start to hold and shakers that they want to reach out to. Orange and Yellow and Black and White are great colours for babies to be interested in

  • Shape sorters - amazing to encourage the hands and fingers to work.

  • Inset puzzles with a peg to pick up the pieces - Children love these. Encourages precision, eye hand co-ordination and the pincer/tripod grip

  • Building bricks - I love them and so do children. They love to build towers and its great for noticing how your child is developing. Great for eye hand skills, concentration, grip development and precision

  • Crayons and paper - Great for taking along to restaurants to keep your child occupied. You have to watch your child does not eat them!

  • As your child gets better hand skills and is not so at risk of poking themselves in the eye. Pencils can take over from crayons

  • Wooden Hammer Bench - great for co-ordination, hammering, eye hand co-ordination and precision

  • Colourful car ramp- Great for cause and effect, precision, hand grip and eye hand co-ordination.

  • An easel - fabulous for developing the shoulder, pen grip, pre writing shapes










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