Three Household Items to Promote Grasp Development
by Kristen Henderson, M.S., OTR/L
Kids Place West Pediatric Occupational Therapist
As a child grows and progresses with new skills, their grasp is developing as well. Adequate grasp development is important for age appropriate pre-writing and handwriting skills, manipulation of everyday items, and proper fine motor coordination. Development of grasp patterns may be limited by intrinsic hand muscle weakness or poor palmar arch development. Some signs that your child may have delayed grasp development include: not picking up small pellets with index finger and thumb, grasping a writing utensil with the entire fist after the age of 3, difficulty keeping up with writing/drawing tasks in school, or poor manipulation of toys during play.
The following activities with common household items can be utilized for improved hand strength and development of grasping skills.
Using kitchen tongs of various sizes helps to strengthen the intrinsic hand muscles required for appropriate grasping on writing utensils. Gather up any small items you already have at home such as toys, cotton balls, pom poms, blocks, etc. Lay out several containers and have your child transfer items between containers. Encourage your child to cross midline by placing a container on the left side and items on the right. To switch this activity up, try filling up a large bowl with water and place pom poms (or other waterproof toy) inside for your child to “rescue” with their tongs!
Try using cotton balls to paint as a way to promote distal fine motor coordination. In addition to grasping skills, this activity also provides your child with tactile input. If you don’t have paint readily available you can substitute with shaving cream, pudding, or ketchup.
Squeezing a spray bottle helps your child develop the muscle strength and endurance for proper manipulation of writing utensils. Spray bottles can be used in a variety of ways throughout the day. A spray bottle may be used during bath time to spray bubbles off walls or toys. Outside of the bath, you can cover your child’s hard plastic toys with shaving cream and have them spray their toys clean. Have your child help with spraying and wiping the table down after family meals!
If you are concerned about grasp development, please call Kids Place to see if your child may benefit from an occupational therapy evaluation.