Hand / Eye Coordination activities for disabled children with behavioural and / or sensory difficulties
This page is for Leaping Leopards – disabled children with behavioural and / or sensory difficulties.
Hand eye coordination is very important to help children with autism, sensory processing disorder and ADHD with every day activities of daily living and fine motor skills.
Hand/ eye coordination is the relationship with what we see and how we use our hands. As we develop, we no longer need to look at our hands to be able to use them. We connect what we see with our eyes and move our hands accordingly. This skill is developed through much practice and is essential for every day tasks such as dressing, eating, playing sport, climbing, writing and even using a tablet.
Before trying these exercises, take a minute to prepare your child. To wake up their muscles squeeze their hands, tips of their fingers and their arms. You could also massage or use a brush along their skin, or a vibrating implement. All of these can help to make your child more aware of their fingers/ hand/ arm which can then help them be more accurate and learn more effectively.
Make sure your child is successful in their game as this will motivate them to continue. As you push them to get to the next level, they should be able to manage a few of their attempts to keep motivated-even if they are not successful at all of them.
Remember to praise the effort rather than the result to motivate them to keep putting in effort and not be put off if they don’t succeed.
Most of these activities will feel like fun anyhow but feel free to adapt the exercise to make it more entertaining for your child.
Use this sequence to progress your child’s hand/eye coordination. They may start at the beginning or half way down – wherever you think your child will be successful but still be challenged. If your child is not ready to attempt a certain activity, look at those either before or after which may suit them better.
Cause and effect
Challenging your child’s Hand/ eye coordination can begin with cause and effect activities. Your child will do something with their hand and this will cause something to happen which they will see. This can be even more effective if there is a noise or movement as well as something to see. Your child will start to associate movement of their hand with an outcome which is the starting point for building hand/eye coordination.
Good cause and effect activities include:
Beating a drum, hitting a bell or hitting notes on a keyboard.
If you don’t have any instruments at home you can use everyday object such as a wooden spoon and upside down saucepan, a plastic bottle with some rice in it as a rattle or silver foil to scrunch.
For other ideas, visit https://www.activityvillage.co.uk/musical-instruments which has some other easy ways you can make musical instruments from everyday objects in the home.
There are some fabulous apps for tablets which require very little movement to get a big effect. Our favourites include:
Sensory Lightbox or Sensory Soundbox (£2.99 each, Apple and Android). Just a touch on the screen produces a wide variety of sounds and noises. As you move your fingers/ hand the noises change. Very calming or stimulating, depending on the setting and wonderful feedback for cause and effect.
Fluidity HD (free – for Apple devices only) – beautiful flowing colours controlled by any touch on the screen
Baby’s Musical hands (free – for Apple and Android)- musical and colourful app – any touch will play a piano sound
Finger paint (free for Apple and Android) – opportunity to paint with different colours and sounds.
- Duck Duck Moose nursery rhymes series (free on Apple and Android). These are a series of apps with entertaining and often surprising cause and effect options which can keep your younger child (and you) entertained for ages. We particularly like Itzy Bitsy HD, Old Mac HD and Trucks HD.
Dr Panda series (Apple and Android, vary from free to up to £3.99) has some lovely options with simple yet entertaining games for young children. We enjoy Dr Panda Restaurant, hospital, Beauty Salon and Daycare.
Here are some fun hand eye coordination activities for you to try at home with your child.
Start by blowing bubbles and catching them with the bubble wand. Bring this closer to your child and ask them to pop it with their hand.
Move the wand around so that they are popping in different directions.
Blowing the bubbles into the air close to the child so that they can wave their arms about to pop a bubble.
Move on to blowing less bubbles so the child is encouraged to be more accurate with their popping.
Sit or kneel on the floor and roll a ball between you. Start with a big ball and get smaller as your child improves.
Try to stop the ball when it comes to you before rolling back.
Try rolling with more accuracy-e.g. into a container.
Try stopping the ball with 2 hands.
Try stopping the ball with 1 hand.
Staying nice and close to each other, roll a balloon to your child and ask them to hit it back. This is great for cause and effect as little effort goes a long way and the balloon moves slowly so gives more time to aim the hit back.
As they improve, stand further apart and launch the balloon into the air rather than along the floor.
Use a beanbag or soft toy to practice throwing. Start with a big container or target very close to the child.
As the child gets more accurate, move the container further away.
You could use colours or other descriptions to throw into different containers (e.g. red toys into bucket, green toys onto the laundry basket OR dinosaurs through the hoop, farm animals into the saucepan.)
Set up a 10 pin bowling set with empty plastic bottles or stack a pyramid of empty tins.
Start very close to the target.
Give the child a large soft ball or soft toy to throw.
Encourage them to get more accurate by seeing how many throws it takes to knock them all over.
As your child gets more accurate, move the target further away.
You could also set up a points system by drawing a target on some cardboard and fix it to the door or on the floor. You could also use post it notes on the wall as more difficult targets-the higher and smaller the target, the higher the points.
You could also put letters on the targets so your child can spell out a word.
This is a fantastic game and involves playing in teams and getting your team’s ball nearest to a target ball. It can be played with as few as 2 people.
If you don’t have balls, use rolled up socks.
See our video on the rules for this very inclusive game you can play anywhere.
Give your child a bucket. This could rest on the floor or be held in their arms.
Throw a beanbag or other soft toy into the air and they need to move the bucket to catch it.
As they improve, make the bucket or container smaller so they have to increase their accuracy.
You could also make the ball small or harder for an extra challenge.
Start with a big soft ball and standing/ sitting very close together. Roll the ball into the child’s hands so they get used to holding it and balancing the ball between 2 hands.
Ask the child to throw it back and keep practising until they are accurate to you at a very small distance.
Start moving back a little so there is a gap between you.
Start making the ball a bit smaller-soft balls and beanbags are easier to catch than fully inflated balls. If you don’t have balls at home use rolled up socks, small cushions or soft toys.
Move onto large inflated balls such as footballs and then try with smaller balls
Progress from 2 handed catches onto 1 handed catches
Try also catching on their own-throwing into the air or against a wall.
Try moving further apart from each other one step at a time to increase the challenge. If you are feeling brave try this outside with water balloons.
Trapping the ball/ toy/ beanbag, in the elbow, under the chin, between the shoulder and cheek, under the arm or behind the knee and then letting go can be fun. Try to move the object between creases (elbow to elbow, cheek to elbow) (see this video which demonstrates this unique way of juggling)
Here is a lovely video for more advanced throw and catch against the wall:
Create a ‘Juggle-board‘
Using a clothes airier you can create a board which enables you to share a adapted ‘juggling’ experience together. Using the airier, the ball/s can travel in a straight line to and from your partner.
Add 1-3 balls, so that one starts before or after the other, at the same time, slower/ faster.
Try sending ball across with opposite hands. You could ring a bell or make a sound effect when the ball has reached its destination.
Introduce a slow piece of music and try to pass the ball on the beat of 1, 4 or 8. See our video for details of how to set this up.
The progression to this is juggling with just 1 hand and then eventually juggling with 3 balls for the ultimate in hand eye coordination.
You can also watch our ‘Our Home’ video on how to make your own juggling balls here
An egg and spoon race is a great way to challenge hand eye coordination while multi-tasking.
Use a large spoon and a small ball. The child should try to get from A to B without the ball falling of their spoon.
Progress this by putting obstacles in the way. First just aim for the child to walk around an object
Progress to stepping over objects, going backwards or going around the whole house including up and down the stairs (make sure you stay close for safety).
Start with putting soft toys or larger balls into an open container.
Progress to smaller toys into a smaller container. You could combine this with a matching game-putting the red objects into the red container etc
Shape sorter games are fantastic for eye hand coordination. If you don’t have any, cut a hole in the lid of a plastic pot and post small objects.
As your child gets more accurate, cut smaller holes or slits and post smaller objects such as coins, pebbles or buttons.
You could cut different sizes of slits for different sizes of objects so they have to work our sizes as they post.
Some children will try to use force instead of turning the puzzle piece to make it fit so start with easy puzzles where they can be more successful to teach them about turning the puzzle piece (or turning the board if they can’t turn their hand as well).
Puzzles with pegs on them are often the best place to start if children don’t have full hand control.
Move onto regular flat puzzles as skills improve.
Use smaller pieces as skills improve.
If you don’t have puzzles at home, find a good picture from a magazine. Cut it into large or smaller pieces which your child can then piece back together.
Use finger paints to start getting cause and effect and develop hand coordination. Start with lines up and down and side to side before trying to go diagonal and lastly to get circles (which are more complex).
In messy play this is good opportunity to make trails with fingers, follow lines, manoeuvre objects around etc. See messy play for ideas.
Move onto using brushes, crayons or pencils.
See our ‘fine motor skills’ section (coming soon) for more details of how to encourage drawing and painting.
Here are a selection of suitable Our Home videos
This video gives loads of ideas of how to use tape to make games in your home. Best thing is you can leave them up to play another day.
This video shows how to set up an obstacle path to get your children jumping around and having fun. And just watch as your neighbours join in!
Stealthy Ways for Handwashing
This video contains tips on how to ‘stealth handwash’ whilst still having fun with various kitchen or household props. And also how to pimp up our liquid pumps to make it more fun for children.
This obstacle course is suitable for those children who can crawl along the floor, this includes younger children with Down Syndrome.
This video is suitable for mobile children. You can create the laser string quest anywhere in your home and make it as big or small or as easy as you like!
The scavenger hunt is really simple and easy to set up. It can be adapted to suit any disability and household.