It's like chores, but for your hands. Heavy handwork strengthens fine motor skills for handwriting and daily living activities. Using your hands can provide a mental break, help with focus, and act as a filter to support sensory integration therapy.

 

For children with ADHD, heavy handwork can provide the prefect fidget-like activity to engage the brain. The more cognitive the handwork, such as puzzles, the better. Let's take a look at some ideas for engaging the hands and the mind together.

 

Primary Tools

Putty, sand and water are fantastic for all ages and the resistance level is adjustable. For the sensory sensitive, I like to start with water and washing dishes or playing in the sink. For sensory avoiders I will place flour in a tub and have them dig for items like spoons, coins and such. Sand and putty provide even more resistance for a heavier workout to help reduce stress.

Sensory Activities for Heavy Handwork | Autism | Occupational Therapy - Putty Elements
Putty Elements
Sensory Activities for Heavy Handwork | Autism | Occupational Therapy - At the Beach Weighted Sand Kit
At the Beach Weighted Sand Kit
 

Chores

Aside from washing dishes, chores like mopping, sweeping, dusting, wiping surfaces or windows and cleaning can give the hands a great workout and help build useful skills. Younger kids can be given a spray bottle with water and older kids can be given a rake, broom or mop. Be sure to supervise, but allow some independent time too.

 

Cooking

Cooking and baking are also good for tactile, heavy handwork. If your child is a sensory avoider and doesn't want to touch the raw ingredients, then focus on the weighing, stirring, mixing and pouring steps.

 

Moves

Push up, Pull up, Wheelbarrow and Crab Walks can give the hands quite a warm-up and workout, and you don't need to be a gymnast. I love combining these activities with counting and deep breathing too. To increase the intensity, try rock climbing which strengthens the intrinsic hand muscles after just a few minutes.

Sensory Activities for Heavy Handwork | Autism | Occupational Therapy - Adaptive Climbing Wall
Adaptive Climbing Wall
Sensory Activities for Heavy Handwork | Autism | Occupational Therapy - Tyke Tower Climbing Wall
Tyke Tower Climbing Wall
 

Play

Puzzles, stringing beads, building with blocks and pretend play can all build up the hand muscles and provide a hand workout in a fun and engaging environment.

Sensory Activities for Heavy Handwork | Autism | Occupational Therapy - Gel Tangram Puzzle
Busy Fingers™ Tangram Gel Puzzle
Sensory Activities for Heavy Handwork | Autism | Occupational Therapy - Magna-Tiles
Magna-Tiles
 
Sensory Activities for Heavy Handwork | Autism | Occupational Therapy - Button Pizzazz
Button Pizzazz
Sensory Activities for Heavy Handwork | Autism | Occupational Therapy - Marble Mazes
Round Plush Maze
 

Art and Music

Painting, drawing, coloring as well as playing the piano, string or wind instruments can tune up the hands. Your budding artist may not be a Picasso or Mozart but can still build skills and discipline. Be patient and consistent, and be prepared for some resistance to practice. The benefits for the hands and the boost to self-esteem are profound.

Sensory Activities for Heavy Handwork | Autism | Occupational Therapy  

Lastly, encourage your kids to dress themselves, prepare their own small meals or lunch, put on shoes and socks, brush their teeth and hair, and so on. Yes all these must be age appropriate, but be sure you are not helping out more than needed to rush things along. A little frustration is ok when it leads to new and improved hand skills.