Hand-eye coordination is something infants start to develop as soon as they start using the smaller muscles in their hands like fingers and wrists. These skills are important for children to learn and master from a young age as they are the basis of a lot of activities they will do throughout their life.
Good hand-eye coordination is vital in sports - being able to grasp what angle to catch the ball in when it’s mid-air and approaching you for example, requires immense coordination.
Good hand-eye coordination results in strong visual motor skills - which are essential for reading and writing mainly, but also smaller things like tying shoelaces.
Having said that though, hand-eye coordination is not something that children can be taught like the alphabet. It is a skill they develop over time and all we can do as parents is engage them in activities that utilise and enhance these skills. After all, practice makes perfect.
Here are 10 fun activities you can make your child do to help them master this skill.
Infants have relatively tender limbs, throwing a ball at them and hoping that they would catch it is unrealistic on our part. At this age they may not even be able to sit up by themselves and so the number of activities you can make them do are limited.
1. A Play Mat
A great tool for infants that is fun and can enhance their hand-eye coordination, while not requiring you to put in too much effort is a baby play mat gym. It is a mat with a canopy of hanging soft toys. As the baby lays on the mat, he or she would be fascinated by the colours and toys hanging down and is bound to want to reach them. You will observe that the baby’s hands move in the same direction that the toy swings. This is hand-eye coordination at its earliest.
For Toddlers And Young Preschoolers
With toddlers, there are more activities you can do. In all fairness, these are simple games that we play with our kids all the time but don’t realise the benefits they bring.
2. Rolling A Ball
Have your child sit on a flat surface with their legs spread apart. Roll a decently sized ball between their legs and ask them to stop it before it reaches their tummy. Reduce the size of the ball and increase the distance you roll the ball from as the child develops and confidently stops the ball from reaching his or her tummy.
3. Object Relays
Have your children and their friends stand in a straight line, all facing in the same direction, looking at each other’s backs. Fill one bucket with toys (preferably balls and soft toys) and place it in front of the first child in the line. Also, place an empty bucket behind the last child. The aim of the game is to transport all the toys from the front bucket into the back bucket. The children are not allowed to turn around, instead have to pass the toy one after the other, with both their hands, either from above their heads or between their legs.
4. Passing And Tossing
This task is similar to the one above but slightly more difficult. Have the children stand in a circle and pass a ball around. Increase the space between each child gradually so they have to start tossing the ball around. This helps them gauge the angle, speed and strength they should toss the ball with based on how far it has to go.
5. Suspended Ball Activities
Fill a large sock or net with a ball (decently sized) and hang it on the grill in the backyard. Have the child hit the ball with a bat or play push and catch. This way, you don’t have to go running every time they miss the ball and they are occupied themselves.
As drivers, we understand the importance of hand-eye coordination and apply it all the time. Get your toddler a 12v kids car that he or she can drive around the house, backyard, in the park or around the neighbourhood. As they steer the car around, they automatically put their hand-eye coordination skills to use.
For Older Children
By now, your child has gotten the hang of all these activities so repeating them over and over is pointless. Instead we make them tougher and perhaps more interesting.
7. Suspended Ball Activities
Same concept as the one mentioned above, but reduce the size of the ball. A smaller ball is harder to hit, push and catch. This keeps their senses simulated.
8. Ball-Wall Toss
Once you feel like you’re child has mastered the suspended ball, have them toss and catch a ball against a wall. As they get better, have them increase the distance between themselves and the wall.
9. Toss And Catch
Have your child toss a ball in the air and catch it. Start with a bigger ball which is easier to see and control, and reduce the ball size as he or she gets better at it.
10. Remote Control Toys
RC toys aren’t just fun for children of this age to play with, but they have a great impact on their hand-eye coordination. As they control a toy with a remote control, their eyes follow the moving toy as their fingers control the remote. They understand speed and distance better as they prevent their toys from crashing into walls. Twirls, spins and tricks teach them focus, concentration and perseverance. The same goes for video games.
Remote control cars also make for great birthday presents! It’s like shooting two birds with one stone!
These activities also make for great birthday party games. Help your child develop skills as they play.