Shoulder, Hand and Finger Strengthening activities for Leopards – disabled children who are mobile with learning difficulties.
They’re great activities well suited for children with Autism, Down Syndrome and other learning disabilities.
This page gives ideas and activities which you can do at home with your Leopards which strengthens their arms while your child has fun.
We need good shoulder, elbow, wrist hand and finger strength to carry, manipulate, stabilise ourselves and for hand dexterity and fine motor skills.
This includes being able to carry out activities of daily living such as eating, dressing (buttons and zips can be especially difficult) doing up laces, handwriting, typing etc. Much play and school work need good fine motor skills although there are adaptations if fine motor skills aren’t going to be achieved.
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 and shoulders. You could also use a brush along their skin, or a vibrating massager. 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 use their arms/ hands more effectively.
If your child has any tightness in their arm or hands, give them a good stretch before these activities to enable them to be as successful as possible.
Shoulder and elbow strength activities and exercises for disabled children who are mobile with learning difficulties.
On their hands and knees – reach 1 arm straight out in front of them in the air – you can challenge them to balance a beanbag or soft toy on the back of their hand to keep it up. Try and hold for 1 minute.
Now try and lift 1 leg straight out behind them. Try and hold this for 1 minute
Can they do an opposite arm and leg at the same time and hold it for 1 minute?
Try the other side.
Hold your child by their hips with their legs straddling you and their hands on the floor. Move around the floor with your child walking on their hands, picking up objects for as far as they can go.
Move your hands down to your child’s knees and walk around the room – picking up objects or playing a matching game or skittles.
If you can, hold your child by their ankles. Make sure they keep their bottom in the air and don’t hang their tummy’s down. Again find a game to make this more entertaining.
As your child gets stronger you could try to get from one end of the house to another – even trying going up the stairs.
You could also make an obstacle course to go around.
Any climbing using hands will be good for hand and shoulder strength and stability. This includes climbing on furniture or up the stairs. The more weight which goes through the arms, the better.
The most challenging activity is hanging on a bar or going along monkey bars. Try hanging off a door if you don’t have access to a bar to hang from.
Wrist, hand and finger strengthening exercises for disabled children who are mobile with learning difficulties
See this ‘Our Home’ video on hand strengthening with playdough – kneading, pulling apart, squashing or wringing the playdough can all be great hand strengthening exercises.
2. For finger strengthening, try hiding objects in the dough and your child has to manipulate it to get the toy.
Squeezing bottles is a lovely way to strengthen fingers. Fill an empty toothpaste tube with yogurt or a water bottle with a spout with any liquid.
Put soft playdough in a plastic bag and make a small hole – squeezing it out can make a lovely snake of dough and be great for strengthening the hand and fingers.
Squeeze stress balls – see our video on how to make a stress ball out of flour and some balloons. Encourage your child to squeeze this or just poke with their fingers.
Tie string around the legs of some chairs and clip some pegs onto the string for your child to take off.
Cut a piece of card into a head shape and your child can clip the clothes peg around one edge to make hair.
Do a scavenger hunt. Clip pegs around the house on bits of material, paper, drawer handles etc. The child can then go around the home or the room (depending on their mobility) to find the pegs and take them off. (see this ‘our home’ video which shows how to use a tablet to set up a scavenger hunt).
Using home implements can be brilliant for strengthening. For the whole hand use kitchen or BBQ tongs and try to pick up bigger items such as socks, soft toys, small cushions. You could set this up as a scavenger hunt too. Take photos of objects they need to pick up with their tongs from around the house and bring back to the start.
For finger strengthening, use tweezers instead of tongs and pick up small items such as coins. See how quickly they can pick up 10 coins and put them in a bowl the other side of the room.
Use any spare nuts and bolts (and washers) you have around the house to make shapes with card. Just draw the shape of a dinosaur, snake, tree etc. cut slits or small holes in the card and your child can amuse themselves screwing the nuts and bolts together to make great pieces of 3D art.
Use a large piece of newspaper and ask your child to scrunch it into the smallest ball they can with 2 hands.
Now ask them to do it with 1 hand. The manipulation needed for this will strengthen all the small intricate muscles of the hands.
These activities should be supervised at all times.
Using scissors is a great way to strengthen hands. You can start by cutting dough as this teaches the right way to cut. Make a snake out of dough and ask then to cut it into pieces.
Move on to cutting straight lines on card and/ or paper.
As their skills develop you can be inventive with your cutting and draw interesting shapes for them to cut.
See this video which shows how to make a Minecraft man paper chain just cutting straight lines.
Here are a selection of suitable Our Home videos for Leopards
This obstacle course is suitable for those children who can crawl along the floor.
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.