Hand-eye coordination is a fine motor skill that develops in a series of stages from birth to about 7 years of age. During this time, children reach the following milestones: the ability to feed and dress themselves; the ability to establish a preference for the right or left hand; the ability to climb, jump and balance; and the ability to maintain eye focus for extended periods. If a movement disorder or vision problems cause issues with hand-eye coordination in a child or adult, a doctor may suggest exercise as one method of treatment.
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The key to improving hand-eye coordination appears to be in exercises that focus not on an object or destination but on the space in between. A study published in September 2001 in “The Journal of Neuroscience” supports a theory that gaze control is a major contributing factor in developing good hand-eye coordination. In the study, researchers found that gaze defines key grasping or fingertip positions between the hand and an object and then directs the hand to these positions when moving the object.
A February 1992 article in the magazine “Clinics in Geriatric Medicine” lists racket sports as beneficial in improving hand-eye coordination in adults, especially older adults. Use any type of racket, such as a tennis racket or pingpong paddle, to complete the following exercise: Hold the racket like you would if shaking hands. With your palm pointing up, bounce a ball about 8 to 10 inches high 50 times without moving your feet or missing the ball. Then, turn your palm so it faces down and repeat the drill. Finally, repeat the drill a third time, alternating one bounce with your palm facing up and one with your palm facing down for a total of 50 bounces.
Ball catching is an exercise you can perform by yourself or with a partner. Wall ball is an example of an exercise you can play by yourself. To play, use a basketball or any ball about that size, stand in front of a wall and start throwing and catching the ball. Then progress to catching it with one hand and finally to pushing it back using only your fingertips. Repeat using both hands.
Playing action and sports video games can also sharpen visual perception and motor skills. The coordination of eye and hand movements required by some games might even be greater than that of other activities, such as actually playing the game of baseball. But everything in moderation. Excessive video game play is unnecessary.
If you're working with a child, one of the best ways to help him develop good hand-eye coordination skills is by providing toys or objects, such as cups and bowls, that fit together. The Encyclopedia of Children's Health suggests balls, jigsaw puzzles and building blocks as other good toys for developing and improving hand-eye coordination.