Children with low muscle tone, children with spasticity, and children with dyspraxia all struggle with using their hands effectively and efficiently. Therapy can be super boring, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are four simple and fun ways to build your child’s awareness of their fingers that will support grasp, pinch and more!
- Gentle hand and finger massage. This is not the same as what your manicurist does when you get all decked out for a night on the town. (remember what that’s like?) You will be gently massaging each finger from the knuckle to the fingertip. I like to place my thumb on top of a child’s finger, and the side of my index finger underneath. The stroke is firm but not hard, and as smooth as you can manage it. Children tend to move about more than adults during massage. You may be aware that I am also a licensed massage therapist. There is nothing I like better than incorporating massage into OT when it is appropriate!
- Name each finger during massage, and during play. Exaggerate finger movements to help them remember the names and pay attention to your description. I weave finger awareness into every session I do with some children. I will name their fingers as well. I describe what they are doing right ” You have your pointer finger right on top; that’s just the right place to….” and why things aren’t working out for them “I think that when you moved your thumb off your pencil, you pushed so hard that your crayon broke”
- I especially like talking about what I did wrong. Children feel a sense of equality and fairness when adults admit to, and even elaborate on, their mistakes. It takes some of the pressure off of them as young learners. I will clearly describe to a child what I think I did wrong, and what I am going to do differently the next time. That allows me to model persistence, one of the traits that help children with delays and disabilities thrive.
- Use “Where is Thumbkin?” and other finger plays. These are not just for preschool. They are fun for parents too. Your child may not have been able to keep up with the faster version at school, so this is a great opportunity to practice with an adult that can slow it down and repeat the movements until he gets it just right!