Welcome to the Hand Eye Coordination page for those who have multiple and profound learning and physical disabilities.
This page was created for what we call our ‘Butterflies’ – children in wheelchairs with profound physical and learning difficulties.
This page gives you ideas for activities that you can do to improve the hand/ eye coordination of your Butterfly who spends much time in their wheelchair or specialised seating.
Hand eye coordination is the relationship with what we see and how we use our hands. This skill is developed through much practice and is essential for every day tasks such as grasping, eating, playing on a tablet, messy play etc.
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.
Before trying these activities, take a minute to prepare your child. To wake up their muscles it can be a good idea to wake up their skin. This can be done by squeezing their hands, tips of their fingers and their arms. 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 learn more effectively.
You may want to give their hand, wrist and arm a stretch first to allow them to have the most movement possible with which to play.
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 tries 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 fun for your child.
Here we have put together a list of our favourite Cause and Effect Activities – the first step to hand/ eye coordination – for wheelchair users with learning difficulties.
These hand eye coordination games and activities for disabled children are a great way to develop your child’s skills.
These are great for building hand/eye coordination with some lovely cause and effect.
This could include beating a drum, hitting a bell, 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 or a fire blanket to scrunch.
For other ideas, go to this page: https://www.activityvillage.co.uk/musical-instruments which has some other easy ways you can make musical instruments from everyday objects in the home.
To get more accurate with musical instruments, try to play a Simon says game. You can start with a beat/ tune and they can copy – or they play a beat/tune and you copy.
If your child finds it difficult to isolate their pointing finger see our video on how to isolate a finger for using a tablet/ Ipad.
There are some fabulous apps for tablets which require very little movement to get a big effect. Here are some of our favourites;
Sensory Light box or Sensory Soundbox (£2.99 each from Apple or 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. Can use multiple fingers at a time if 1 finger painting isn’t possible.
For more advanced cause and effect apps try:
Duck Duck Moose nursery rhymes series. These are a series of apps with entertaining and often surprising cause and effect options which can keep your child (and you) entertained for ages. They are pretty frustration free as this can be played with children who will use a fist or who have less dexterity in their hands. We particularly like Itzy Bitsy HD, Old Mac HD and Trucks HD.
Hand/ eye coordination activities to do at home with your Butterfly
- 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.
- If they can’t use a pointer finger they can just use their whole hand.
- Move the wand around so that they are reaching to pop in different directions. You could even let the bubbles fall on their tray so they can pop them on the tray.
- When they are moving their arms to meet the wand, start blowing the bubbles into the air close to the child so that small movements of their arms will pop the bubbles.
- Move on to blowing less bubbles so the child is encouraged to be more accurate with their popping.
- 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.
- 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. Have a look at our ‘Our Home’ video to see how to make one.
- 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
- 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 your child improves, stand further apart and launch the balloon into the air rather than along the floor/tray.
- 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/ toilet roll inners 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.
- You could set up a ramp (a piece of cardboard, tray or cushion) off their tray or lap to help them.
- 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.
- 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 and you can play from your wheelchair. If you don’t have balls, use rolled up socks.
- See our video for details on the rules for this very inclusive game you can play anywhere.
- Give your child a bucket. This could rest on the floor or tray in sitting or 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 get better, 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 smaller inflated balls or any other smaller ball
Set up a box laser quest with all their favourite toys at the bottom. Can they move their hands to get the toys out?
See this video for how to set it up.
- 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.
- Use finger paints to start getting cause and effect and develop hand coordination. Start with making marks. Then try lines up and down and side to side before trying to get diagonal lines (which are more complex).
- In messy play is a good opportunity to make trails with fingers, follow lines, manoeuvre objects around etc. See messy play for ideas.
- Move onto holding pens/ chalk/ paintbrushes/ crayons for painting and drawing. There are paints and crayons for all ages and abilities.
Puzzles are lovely for making children match up shapes. 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 theme about turning the puzzle piece (or turning the board if they can’t turn their hand as well).
Large 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.
Other helpful Butterfly resources
Here are a selection of suitable Our Home videos
Silly Socks and a bit of Boccia
Boccia is a great way to get your child throwing at a target which will challenge their hand eye coordination. It’s easy to set up too – all you need are some socks!