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Hand-Eye Coordination: What Is It and 5 Exercises to Improve It

Nov 05th, 2021 | by Georgia Berbert

Georgia Berbert

November 05th, 2021

When you hear the term “hand eye coordination” most people immediately think of catching and throwing. How many times have we all heard a coach, parent, or teacher exclaim “keep your eye on the ball!”? While catching and targeted throwing are excellent examples of hand eye coordination, they are not the only ones!

What is Hand Eye Coordination?

At its most basic, hand eye coordination is the way your brain synthesizes visual input (what you’re seeing) with your upper extremity movements in order to perform a precise action. Think stringing beads, copying shapes, using utensils to feed yourself, so many things! Need some help coming up with ideas on how to improve hand eye coordination with your child? Keep reading!  

 

5 Hand-Eye Coordination Exercises 

1. Catching

As we’ve already discussed, catching is the ultimate hand-eye coordination activity. If your child has difficulty coordinating their movements to catch something thrown to them, consider starting somewhere a little easier. Did anyone else spend PE classes in grade school playing with brightly colored scarves, learning to juggle them (poorly) and just goofing off? 

There’s a reason for this – the scarves drift through the air, moving slowly enough that younger children have an easier time tracking them with their eyes and coordinating a reach to catch a scarf. They are also easy to grasp and only require one hand to catch, meaning this is a perfect activity for a kiddo who has difficulty with fine motor coordination or with using both hands together. 

Handkerchiefs make great impromptu scarves – try dropping it from above your child’s head or have them play catch with themselves by throwing it up in the air and catching it. Of course, as this becomes too easy, you can increase the challenge by swapping out the scarf for a balloon, a floating piece of tissue paper, or, you guessed it, a ball! 

2. Popping Bubbles

Who doesn’t love playing with bubbles? These instant kid pleasers are also a quick and easy way to work eye-hand coordination practice into your play routine with your child. See if your child can reach to pop each bubble (bonus points for working on finger isolation – show me that pointer finger!). If that’s too easy, see how many they can catch in a cup, or in a bowl using two hands. You can also have them alternate hands to pop bubbles even faster using both sides of their body.  

3. Copycat Drawing

If your child enjoys crafts and coloring, this activity could be a winner. It requires no set up and simple materials – all you need is a piece of paper and something to draw with. Take turns with your child drawing silly shapes or simple pictures then have them try to replicate the same drawing. This works best for younger kiddos if you keep things simple (think shapes, squiggly lines, zigzags, basic letters). 

If copying the shape is too hard, you can have them trace on top of your drawing first. As kids improve you can make drawings sillier and more complicated – just follow your child’s lead! This is a great game to break out while you’re waiting for your food to arrive at a restaurant, in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, or just a rainy Saturday afternoon.  

4. Water Play

Water play is such a fun, engaging activity for kids that engages their senses and helps synthesize so many motor skills. Try filling a bin (or the bathtub! This is a great bath time activity) with water and pompoms, then give your kiddo some cups, bowls, or utensils to practice scooping and pouring. 

Challenge them to get all the pompoms of one color into the same cup just by scooping, or simply let them do their thing. The best part is, at the end just scoop the pompoms out and set them aside to dry and they’re ready for use next time.  

5. Targeted Reaching

This activity is pretty broad and can easily be adapted to whatever you have around the house at the time. One of my favorites is taping some paper up on a ball and drawing a zigzag line, or a simple picture like a flower or sun. Then, hand your kiddo some stickers or dot markers and they’re off to the races. Have them outline the drawing by placing the stickers along the lines or dotting along it with the dot marker. Having the paper on a vertical surface like a wall or the fridge helps build shoulder and wrist strength as well and it adds an unexpected element of fun for your child. 

Don’t have stickers or dot markers on hand? Don’t want to risk paint all over your living room walls? Stickers are too hard? Have your child reach for a toy that you hold out for them. If that’s too easy, try waving it slowly through the air to increase the challenge. Place some spices you need to cook dinner on a lazy susan and spin it slowly while asking your child to pick out a particular one. The options are endless! The goal here is to have them reaching towards a specific item/spot with as much accuracy as possible. You can make that easier or harder depending on your child’s current skill level, and it works for so many activities. Happy playing! 

Bonus! Hand Eye Coordination Activities Video

Find More Therapist-Approved Activities in the NAPA Blog:

About the Author

Spot this Denver-based occupational therapist easily in her bright colors! Georgia loves nothing more than helping a child achieve something awesome. This highly caffeinated OT keeps all of us on our toes and helps us tap into our creative side.  

TAGS: Blogs, OT