Children with sensory processing issues and low muscle tone can really struggle with the finger play games that are used in circle time at school. Following the sequence of the movements using the right finger patterns can be confusing. Achieving the right finger and wrist angles takes strength and stability all the way from the trunk out to the tiny finger joints. But think about it: Don’t you also need that kind of hand awareness and control in order to use a pencil?
I am starting to incorporate finger play games into my therapy sessions with children that are struggling with both limited coordination as well as sensory processing issues that make it difficult for them to perceive where there fingers are on a toy, or even where their entire arm is placed. Some kids need a very stable sitting position instead of sitting on the floor, and some need some more general therapeutic movement or other sensory input to get organized before trying these moves. The rhythmic songs and the chance to move to a beat helps sequence the movements.They get everyone breathing deeply and give kids a chance to make some [fun] noise.
So far, the classics have worked well for me. “Where is Thumbkin?” names each finger and focuses on each one. The child gets to move their arms in different places (in front, in back) and sing about these prepositional concepts. “Itsy Bitsy Spider” is such a favorite song, and the finger movements are pretty complex. Having a good song motivates kids to try the harder sequence of finger and wrist movements. It also has some easier and fun arm movements thrown in. My new song, “Tommy Thumb” is more of a chant, and names body parts as well as individual fingers.
By the time a child has sung two or more songs, there is so much more focus on hands and hand movements that I see more skilled attempts at all the tricky therapy activities, including pencil grasp. And the child thinks we took a break from working on our usual exercises. Not even close!
These games can be so much fun that your child might even ask to sing and perform them with you!