What is hand-eye coordination?
It’s when our eyes track our hand movements and send important messages to the brain about what the hands are doing. These signals are sent in milliseconds to the brain which then co-ordinates hand movements to act in response to what the hands need to do eg: catch a ball coming towards you. If this eye tracking is poor, you may notice difficulty with everyday tasks like reading, writing and sport. Poor hand-eye coordination usually exists alongside Autism Spectrum Disorders, Developmental Delays, Cerebral Palsy, Decreased Muscle Tone and some visual disorders. We’re usually born with poor hand-eye coordination but this can sometimes appear later in life through brain or spinal injury or early on if we’ve experienced a lack of sensory experiences in early development.
Fine Motor Skills
Poor hand-eye coordination can affect fine motor skills which are muscle movements that are made in the wrists and hands. Think of all the activities where you need to use these muscles like unzipping your coat, holding a pencil, using a pair of scissors to name but a few. Movements that require us to grip, aim, read, write and many other tasks using co-ordinated hand and finger movements may be affected if your child has poor hand-eye coordination.
Gross Motor Skills
Gross motor skills involve the movement of large muscle groups in our bodies. Activities like hitting a tennis ball, kicking a ball and throwing and catching need us to be able to coordinate our body parts with our eyes. Driving requires this co-ordination. Poor hand-eye coordination can make reaction times slower or make it difficult to synchronise movements, making learning to drive or playing some sports more challenging.
Help is at hand!
As we get older, our hand-eye coordination tends to get poorer but regularly using fine and gross motor skills can help to improve this and practising these skills with children who have these challenges as a result of a specific condition, also helps.
Poor hand-eye coordination is often accompanied by other difficulties with fine and gross motor skills so working on these is a win-win situation!
Activities to practise Gross Motor Skills
- Together, practise throwing and catching a medium sized ball from different distances and as the skills improve, reduce the size of the ball/increase the distance.
- Practise throwing and batting skills together by throwing a medium sized softball towards a light, large area racket. Gradually decrease the size of the ball and racket as the skills improve.
- Try kicking a medium sized ball into or at a target. First, use the dominant leg to kick and then practise using the other leg and then alternate legs to improve skills.
- Set up ‘bases’ in different areas of a room and get your child to stand in the centre of the room. When you call a ‘base’ colour or name, your child runs to the base as quickly as possible. Start again either from the centre of the room or from the last base called.
- Bounce a ball just in front of your child for them to track and then catch. Try with balls of different sizes and from different distances.
Visit the EdPlace SEND blog to find more help with Gross Motor Skill games here.
Activities to practise Fine Motor Skills
- Thread pasta tubes onto a string or ribbon to make a pasta necklace.
- Use lacing or sewing cards to practise fine finger movements and co-ordination skills.
- Using an old shoe or cereal box, cut different sized slits in the front and get your child to post bottle tops or counters of different sizes through the slits.
- Use 4 empty water bottles, label each with a different colour and number score from 1 – 4. Get your child to pick up buttons matching the label colours and drop them into the bottles. Total the scores for the number of buttons in each bottle after say, 1 minute. Can they beat this score next time?
- First, practise drawing straight lines by co-ordinating the position of the ruler and pencil. This does take lots of practice and patience! Using a ruler with a handle grip and a pencil with a finger grip sometimes helps at first. Then, when this skill improves, can your child draw lines that criss-cross each other on the paper. Maybe colour the gaps in between with coloured pencils without going over the lines? Lots of skills going on here!
Visit the EdPlace SEND blog to find more help with Fine Motor Skill games here.
How can I help?
If you’re concerned about your child’s hand-eye coordination, book an eye test with a good optician for a check-up to rule out any sight problems first. Talk to their teacher to see if they have any similar concerns and ask if the school has any specific provision to work on these skills to help this. The school may provide something like a ‘Gym Trail’ session where gross and fine motor skills are worked on in a group, usually with the SENCO/classroom assistants during the school day.
If you continue to have concerns, visit your GP to see if you can book an appointment with a paediatrician or Occupational Therapist to ask about a diagnosis. They will be able to advise you about what to work on if there are issues.
It’s always a good idea to take a copy of an up-to-date list of your concerns about your child’s challenges with you so that you can give this to the health professional without having to read off a list of your child’s difficulties in front of them at the appointment. It also helps you to remember everything that you want to say too without being side-tracked, and avoids you having to keep repeating yourself to everyone you meet in the valuable time that you have with them!
How can EdPlace help?
EdPlace educational resources support students with poor fine and gross motor skills
- All of EdPlace’s activities are accessed on a computer and are interactive or multiple choice, which is very helpful for a student with poor motor skills
- All tasks are no longer than 10-20 minutes long, so as not to tire the young person and keep them fully engaged.
- As poor motor skills usually co-occur with other SLD’s, EdPlace’s accessibility toolbar can be personalised and customised in lots of different ways, to ensure that all of the content is available to all types of learners.
- EdPlace can also be accessed on a touchscreen device if your child’s dexterity is affected.