Everyday Ways to Increase Hand Strength in Toddlers

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Toddlers need hand strength to complete everyday functional skills like throwing a ball, stacking blocks, and gripping rails. Hand strength is also important for school skills like using scissors and writing with pencils. Including fun hand strength exercises into your toddler’s play will help them develop their grip and master these important skills.

There are 25 muscles in the forearm and hand. The forearm muscles controls the wrist, elbow, and finger movements; small muscles in the palm control fingers. Just squeezing, or developing the forearm muscles, isn’t enough. For fingers to work properly, the small muscles of the palm must be developed, too. This article covers fun activities that strengthen both muscle groups. There are some toys that you can buy, but for the most part, you can improve a toddler’s hand strength with everyday toys and items you already have around the house.

I first became interested in toddler hand strength and grip because my oldest son, Big A, (diagnosed with autism at age 2) has low muscle tone in his hands. He uses his hands awkwardly and holds things impractically. He can’t hold a pencil or crayon very long. These activities have helped tremendously.


Squeezing Activities

These activities encourage development of the larger forearm muscles (but don’t completely ignore the palm).

  • Spraying a spray bottle
  • Scrunching paper (increase resistance by giving more sheets/thicker paper over time)
  • Wringing out wash cloth/sponge
  • Using a hole punch
  • Attaching and removing plastic clips from clothes, toys, etc
  • Kneading dough/clay
  • Squeezing glitter glue bottles
Big A playing with play doh
Big A finding and reburying coins in Play Doh

Increasing Grip Strength

These activities are basically gripping endurance games.

  • Play hammering
  • Drumming (sorry, it’s loud!)
  • Pulling apart Lego/Duplo
  • Carrying bags (holding the straps in their hand)
  • Screwing and unscrewing jar lids



Pinching Skills/Fine Motor

This is where palm muscles get to shine. These activities force fingers and palm to work together to manipulate small objects.

  • Sorting buttons
  • Pushing dry spaghetti strands through empty Parmesan cheese container
  • Threading Cheerios, buttons, beads, etc, onto pipe cleaners
  • Using tweezers to pick up pom poms or other small object
  • Pressing thumbtacks into card board
  • Cheerio trick: hold toddlers palm, place Cheerio in awkward place (not in center of palm, like, to the bottom left), toddlers will use fingers to move Cheerio to fingertips to get to mouth
  • Dressing and undressing dolls
toddlers increasing hand strength by using tongs to pick up blocks
Big A and Little A, using tongs to pick up magnetic blocks

Weight Bearing Activities

Help your toddler get swole. Just kidding. These activities will increase overall upper body strength though.

  • Crawling
  • Wheel barrow walking
toddler doing weight bearing activity to increase hand strength
Throw back to when Big A was littler. We encourage crawling by getting out indoor tunnels.

Toddler Toys That Increase Hand Strength

Got any birthdays coming up? Are you one of those saints who buy their Christmas gifts early? These toys increase toddler hand strength.




I don’t know about y’all, but I don’t want to be zipping coats forever. Increasing toddler hand strength increases independence. Before I know it, The A Team will be buckling themselves into their car seats.

In researching this article, I’ve found that I have weak hand strength! I don’t grip a pen correctly; using a closed thumb web space. Hand strength is something you don’t think about until you’re in your mid-thirties and realize you’re a writer who technically, doesn’t write long hand correctly. Or until your child’s teacher brings it up.

What kind of “hands on” (see what I did there??) activities do you do with your little ones? Let me know in the comments! Share this article to spread awareness about the importance of hand strength development in toddlers.

toddler threading beads onto string to increase fine motor skills
Our Birth to Five Parent Educator brought over this cool bead threading activity.

Happy hand working!

Love,

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Megan

Megan

Megan writes everything on Ish Mom. She lives in the Midwest with her wonderful husband, three boys, and a bunch of corn. She’s a voracious reader and a life-long recipient of questioning looks.
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