Most people think of hand-eye coordination as the ability to catch a ball or throw with accuracy. However, hand-eye coordination is much more and is used in everyday tasks. Simply put, it is the ability of the body to coordinate hand movement based on information from the eyes.
It seems simple, but hand-eye coordination involves many body systems. It involves combining proprioception and kinesthesia, or knowing where the body is in space and how it is moving, with visual processing. Then, the body has to coordinate an appropriate motor pattern to accomplish the task with accuracy and the correct amount of force. Hand-eye coordination is important in everyday tasks such as grasping objects, handwriting, playing games, eating, cooking, and even doing one’s hair. As with other body skills, hand-eye coordination can be practiced and improved upon.
Developing hand-eye coordination begins in infancy. As babies’ vision develops, they begin reaching and playing with toys in supine, prone, and eventually sitting. Encouraging reaching with two hands, and then one is a great way to introduce hand-eye coordination in young infants. As they get older, stacking blocks, placing toys in/out, and grasping finger foods are other great activities to work on hand-eye coordination. Encouraging babies to roll and corral balls also continue to foster this important developmental skill.
Toddlers practice hand-eye coordination throughout their day. Children work on it as they play, work on self-feeding skills, use utensils, and get dressed. Other activities for toddlers and preschool-aged kids that facilitate the development of hand-eye coordination include playing with Playdough, drawing/coloring, stringing beads, and building with Legos. Working on coloring within the lines and forming letters with a good grasp encourages writing skills. Increasing the complexity of puzzles, arts and crafts, and play activities as the child grows keep them challenged and engaged.
Encouraging throwing activities, such as playing catch, encourages the development of throwing with good aim. Parents can help a child work on his or her ability to catch by starting out with larger, softer balls and encouraging trapping it against the chest. As the child improves, work on catching the balls with the hands only and moving towards smaller balls. Dribbling balls and trying different types of throws or passes between people also develops hand-eye coordination. Moving from catching with the hands, to catching with a baseball mitt and hitting a T-ball is a good way to progress throwing skills as kids move into preschool and grade school.
Some children have a hard time developing hand-eye skills and may avoid activities that involve that type of coordination. They may have a hard time with daily activities that involve coordination, including dressing, handwriting, or age-appropriate play activities. These children may benefit from skilled physical therapy or occupational therapy to address concerns with coordination. Our physical and occupational therapists can help children and their families in a variety of ways to improve hand-eye coordination.
We can be reached at (503) 496-0385 and work with children all across the Portland Metro area.
(Blog post provided by Crystal Bridges, DPT)