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13 Easy & Practical Hand Exercises for Cerebral Palsy

hand exercises for cerebral palsy

While an individual with cerebral palsy can practice all sorts of hand exericises, we wanted to promote hand exercises that make it easy for children to get the repetitions they need to improve.

Many parents find it difficult to keep their children engaged in physical therapy because the exercises can get mundane and boring.

This article will go over some fun activities that children with cerebral palsy can do to work on hand function without losing interest.

Why These Hand Exercises for Individuals with Cerebral Palsy Work

Ever heard of neuroplasticity? It’s the brain’s ability to rewire itself, and the best to way activate it is to practice lots of repetitions.

Every movement stimulates the brain, but consistent repetitions will let the brain know that there is a demand for that function. The more repetitions you perform, the more the brain will reorganize itself and strengthen the neural pathways for that function.

Because of neuroplasticity, some people have had entire parts of their brains removed and have been able to recover functions that are typically controlled by those missing parts.

The brain is extremely adaptive and functions affected by brain damage can be rewired and improved through massed practice. Now that you understand how hand functions can improve, let’s get into the exercises.

Hand Exercises for Cerebral Palsy

The best hand exercises for cerebral palsy are the ones that will get your child to perform the most repetitions.

Check out these hand exercises that will improve grip, range of motion in the wrist, finger strength, and dexterity!

1. Sorting Candy

Sorting your favorite candy by color is a great way to develop hand motions after paralysis,

Buy a bag of your child’s favorite treat. Make sure it has a variety of different shapes or colors.

Dump them all out onto a countertop and have your child sort them into piles by color or shape.

They can either slide them across the countertop to practice wrist movements or pick them up to practice pinching the fingers together.

2. Therapy Putty

therapy putty hand exercises for cerebral palsy

Have your child mold some play-doh, clay, slime, or therapy putty into different shapes.

Not only will it help strengthen the muscles in your child’s fingers, but it will also get their creative juices flowing.

Therapy putty has different levels of resistance, so some are easy to squeeze while others are more difficult.

Slime and play-doh are easier to shape and are best for children with extreme hand weakness.

3. MusicGlove

musicglove for cp hand therapy

Kids love music, games, and a challenge. MusicGlove is a hand therapy device that encourages users to perform lots of finger curls through an interactive game.

There are many different songs and difficulty levels to choose from, so your child won’t get bored and can continue to be challenged as they improve.

4. Making Jewelry

jewelry making for improving hand function with cerebral palsy

Jewelry making is/a fun way for children with cerebral palsy to work on developing their fine motor skills.

All you need are some string and beads. To make the activity more challenging, use a thinner piece of string or beads with smaller holes.

As we recommended with the candy, buy an assortment of beads and have your child organize them into a bead organizer.

5. Painting

painting to improve hand function in children with cp

Holding a paintbrush is one thing, but all the different strokes that can be used are another.

If you press harder, you get a thicker, more prominent stroke. If you press lightly, you get a wispy, thinner stroke.

Encourage your child to use different pressures and stroke lengths when painting to get a more comprehensive hand exercise.

6. Braiding Hair

Braiding hair is a useful hand exercise because it requires you to hold certain positions and use your fingers to weave the hair repeatedly.

Braiding hair is a great way to develop hand functions because there are so many different types of braids. Some are simple, while others are more complex.

Braiding involves various hand functions; you have to brush the hair, section it off, hold strands in place while pulling others over, and tie it all up at the end.

7. Playing an Instrument

hand exercises for cerebral palsy can include playing a instrument

Playing an instrument is a great way to develop hand functions and each instrument will require a unique technique.

For example, to play the drums, you must practice holding onto the drumsticks and maneuvering your wrists up and down.

To play the piano, you have to move all your fingers to the appropriate keys.

Playing an instrument teaches children how different amounts of pressure can affect sound.

Slower songs will help children master technique, while faster songs will require more control.

8. Popping Bubbles

popping bubbles to improve accuracy and speed in hands affected by cp

It’s so simple, but popping bubbles is something that will keep your child occupied for a relatively long time (especially if you make a game out of it that constantly challenges them to work harder).

Get a bubble maker and challenge your child to pop a certain number of bubbles in a given timeframe. Continue to increase the number as they improve.

9. Jenga

playing jenga for cp hand exercise

Jenga is a game that starts off easy, but progressively gets more difficult and requires a lot of caution.

You have to delicately pry the block out of the structure and then add it to the top.

This will teach children how to use their fingers to push, pinch them together to grab, and delicately place the block on the top without the entire tower falling over.

10. Decorating Food

decorating food to improve hand coordination with cerebral palsy

Plating your child’s food in a fun way makes them enjoy their meal more. So why not have your child decorate foods like pancakes, cookies, and pizzas at home?

Picking up all the ingredients and placing them exactly where they want them to be, grabbing and squeezing different sauces, and using tools to help make intricate designs will help develop fine motor skills.

11. Beach Day

hand exercises for cerebral palsy at the beach

You’d be surprised at how many different hand exercises your child can practice at the beach.

Wet sand is extremely easy to mold. All the squeezing, pressing, and scooping will help your child strengthen the muscles in their hands.

After that, challenge your child to pick up as many seashells as they can find.

Even having them rub sunscreen into their skin can help strengthen the hands.

12. Gardening

child with cerebral palsy watering flower to practice wrist control

Gardening is an activity that requires a lot of patience and daily commitment.

From picking out the plant to potting it, watering it, and seeing it grow over time, your child will actively use their hand functions.

If you end up planting some sort of fruit or vegetable, your child can even practice pulling them out when they ripen.

13. Legos

kid with cerebral palsy playing with legos to develop strength in fingers

Have your child build something with some Legos.

The bigger ones will be easier to put together, while the smaller ones will require a little bit more intricacy and finger strength.

Cerebral Palsy Hand Therapy

That’s a wrap! If you’d like more straightforward hand exercises, click here.

However, we find that the best hand exercises for cerebral palsy are the ones that keep children challenged and having fun. This way, they don’t think of the exercises as something they have to do, but rather something they want to do.

Good luck!

Keep It Going: Discover a home exercise program for CP that’s actually fun to do!

adult with cerebral palsy smiling while using FitMi home therapy

Finally! There’s a recovery device for CP that’s actually fun to use. See how Flint Rehab’s tools are helping with CP recovery:

“The FitMi and MusicGlove have done wonders for my son with hemiparesis from cerebral palsy and stroke.

It motivates him to do his exercises. It does not seem like therapy for him since it is fun. It monitors his progress so it is a great reinforcement for him.

Music is a motivator for him. He has been using it on his arm and we will try the leg exercises soon.”

FitMi works by motivating high repetition of therapeutic exercises while playing an engaging game. This gamification has been particularly great for motivating individuals with cerebral palsy to recover.

To see how FitMi works, click the button below:

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