"The hands are the instruments of man's intelligence." - Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind.
Hand strength is essential for activities like writing and using scissors but it is also essential for daily living tasks like doing up buttons, pulling on shoes, tying a bow or pouring a drink. Often we focus on coordination, the pincer grasp and the refinement of movements and touch, which are incredibly important but developing the strength of the entire hand is fundamental.
How do our toddlers in the precious first three years of life spend their days? Are our lifestyles becoming too passive? Are our children physically challenged enough? How is their hand strength?
While my toddler does lots of activities that promote fine motor control with lots of repetition (puzzles, using mini tongs, drawing with crayons, using a lock box), this article about hand strength touched a nerve. Perhaps I could find more ways to activate and use the entire hand and arm to build strength, work that requires strength that is also interesting and satisfying. Climbing and practical life activities (like chopping, carrying a bucket, pouring) are obvious options but I like the idea of having some squeezing activities too.
Perhaps squeezing detergent, soap, shampoo, glue or paint. Squeezing paint or glue in an art activity that spans 20-30 minutes alone, or for 40 minutes with peers is a great workout for the hand, arm and core muscles.
This is a simple activity of painting with squeeze bottles. The bottles have a fine tip and we use poster paints, so it requires just the right amount of effort to squeeze the paint out.
Can you see the effort? It's not easy but it's doable. My toddler enjoys this much more than I could have expected. Older children, those beyond toddlerhood may like this too.
He squeezes the paint onto white melamine trays. First in dots and sploshes and later in lines, squiggles and circles.
The bottles are around 50mls and this uses a lot less paint than normal painting.
Sooo much squeeeezing.
Towards the end I put out some paint brushes. It seems like a fun way to wrap things up, there is a little colour mixing in here too.
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