Some children need extra help in strengthening the small muscles of their hands and wrists. And we all know that in order to keep the attention of preschool and younger school age children, we must give them activities that are engaging and fun.

Fun crafts, games, and other manipulatives are essential for children’s hand strengthening exercises.

Here are some great ideas to try out with your kids!

1. Use vertical surfaces!

Any activity that can be done on a vertical surface will help strengthen children’s wrists and help them grow stronger. For example, tape paper on a wall, and let children draw, paint or practice writing letters. For best results, make sure that the child keeps their elbow beneath the level of their hand when working. This will help with wrist extension that will lead to better control of the fingers.

2. Three-dimensional puzzles

Puzzles, especially three-dimensional puzzles, are great for strengthening hand muscles. Important skills such as grasping and turning puzzle pieces ensure that fingers are getting a good workout. Three dimensional puzzles may have the added benefit of turning pieces with a bit of tension such as in the wood snake puzzle or balancing as in the wooden star puzzle.

3. Clay or dough

Another great way to get little fingers stronger is to use different types of clay or dough, such as playdough, silly putty, modelling clay or even bread dough. These substances are excellent for squeezing, squishing, pulling, rolling, and moulding. For example, children can roll the dough flat, and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Other ideas including using a plastic knife to cut out shapes, rolling balls, and making three dimensional figures like a snowman from the balls. All of these ideas provide something for the fingers to work against as they move, a key in strengthening the muscles.

4. Art tools

Provide art tools and let children create. Many tools require children to squeeze such as a hole puncher. Another good choice is allowing kids to squirt glue from the bottles. This can be a part of any collage making activity. Finally, tongs or tweezers can be used to place beans or pompoms on paper. This can be used with the glue activity or simply as a sorting game. Any of these craft ideas includes the use of hands to squeeze, thus strengthening the muscles.

5. Water Play

Water play can also involve a lot of squeezing if the right tools are provided. Allow child to play in a basin of water, bath tub, or a swimming pool in warm weather. Provide things that they can squeeze such as sponges, squirt bottles, and turkey basters. All of these tools will provide some resistance to being squeezed but children will love it. They will not know that they are doing hand exercises. They will just be having fun.


Any activity that makes it fun for children to use their hands for squishing or squeezing or picking up small items will help them to have stronger hands. The more fun the kids are having, the more they will engage in the activities. Over time, you will notice that their hands are growing stronger.

Do you have any tips to add to the list? Please share in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

  • I spoke to a prep teacher and she too advised that Miss 4 should play with play dough which will help when cutting out paper. Squirting a water gun is also a great idea.


  • Great ideas here as sometimes it’s hard to think of ways to get those little hands moving, especially to strengthen them.


  • we do most of these things without even realising they are helping with hand and strength.


  • These are great ideas. Thank you so much.


  • All great tips. We used stress balls too. But, sand play, playdough, lego, anything that encourages continuous use of your hands/fingers.


  • Great tips ! I would add baking together (kneeding the dough and cutting out cookies) and playing with kinetic sand.


  • Wonderful tips – and keeps them off the tablet games at the same time.


  • Good hand and arm strengthening activities are climbing ladders, the wheel Barrow (walking on hands whilst legs held out straight by another person) and gymnastics activities (climbing ropes etc).


  • Good tips here. Many ive used from my daughters OT recommendations. As she gets older and more conscious of being ‘different’ ive found normal activites great for incorporating into her day without it making her feel like its “work”.


  • A great article with some fantastic tips.


  • Two of my older children had hand problems, one was due to an accident and the other born with it. So yes I did use a lot of these plus others that OT gave me to use for them. Climbing frames and hanging off low level frames also help strengthen the hands. My son with the damaged hand had to strengthen his thumb area and refused to use his other hand too much. He was a stubborn right handed male.


  • Great tips that are important – especially important for writing later on.


  • Thanks for sharing these tips. Good for keeping the kids busy too.


  • Thank you for sharing these great tips!
    I’ve always been concerned about taping paper to the wall in case the kids accidentally get the wall so chose to instead use one of those blackboard/whiteboard easels.
    My kids love practicing their writing on it so there are many benefits!


  • Digging in sand pits, helping with cooking – especially kneading dough, and colouring in can all help with developing hand and finger muscles.


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