8 Best Tips To Improve Hand-Eye Coordination

Hand-eye coordination, or eye-hand coordination, is the ability to use hands and eyes to perform everyday tasks simultaneously. It uses spatial-visual perception, or what the eyes perceive, to guide our hands to cause a movement.

In most cases, people do not assume their hand-eye coordination1 is a problem until they have difficulty with it. The most common cause is age.

Please keep reading to learn more about the workings of hand-eye coordination and ways to improve it.

1. How Does Hand-Eye Coordination Work?

Hand-eye coordination is the superfast communication between the eyes, brain, and body to perform a perceived task effectively and efficiently.

Here are the steps to perform a task: You are told to pick a pen from the table.

  1. The eyes scan all the items on the table to find the pen.
  2. Signals are sent to the brain, which processes what the eyes see and sends instructions to the body to pick up the pen.
  3. The hands follow the brain’s instructions and reach out to pick up the pen.

Eye-hand coordination requires our visual skills to be combined with our motor skills. This allows us to guide the hand based on the visual information we are receiving from our eyes.

Most activities that we do in day-to-day life involve the use of hands and eyes simultaneously. Hence, developing and maintaining this cognitive skill as early as possible is important.

hand-eye coordination
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For infants, hand-eye coordination develops between 4 to 14 months of age, when they start to learn to grasp, throw, catch, kick and develop their fine motor skills.

Eventually, these skills are used for handwriting, reading, sports, and other life skills like feeding themselves, tying shoelaces, and building towers with toys.

2. Development of Other Areas With Hand-Eye Coordination

Eye-hand coordination involves the development of several other areas. Let’s go back to the example of picking up a pen from the table.

  • The Vestibular System helps balance the head and eye movement to focus on the items placed on the table.
  • Visual discrimination develops to allow the child to pay attention to detail and identify a pen from all the contents on the table.
  • Gross Motor skills allow the child to use the large arms and shoulder muscles to reach for the pen on the table in controlled movements.
  • Proprioception gives the child an awareness of how to move the body and the force needed to grab and pick up the pen.
  • Fine Motor skills are also developed by using small muscles of the wrist and fingers.
  • Visual Tracking helps scan the contents placed on the table using visual input from the eyes.

This shows that hand-eye coordination helps develop several other factors in early age development. It helps in mastering basic academic skills, learning, communication, and playing sports.

Any signs of poor hand-eye coordination skills need the attention of a paediatrician or a pediatric occupational therapist.

3. Importance of Eye-Hand Coordination

As seen above, improving hand-eye coordination helps develop several other skills.

Hence, good eye-hand coordination can help in different areas of life:

3.1. Handwriting

Eyes are needed to form letters and stay in straight lines. This visual-motor integration is vital for handwriting.

3.2. Reading

When young, a child is taught to read with a finger on the text. Visual tracking makes it possible to read.

3.3. Sports

Hand-eye coordination helps in throwing, catching, and hitting a ball and can later develop further to play a more complex sport.

3.4. Life Skills

Tasks like stacking wooden blocks to make a tower, tying shoelaces, or harder tasks like frosting cakes also use eye-hand coordination.

4. Problems of Poor Hand-Eye Coordination

Older age can cause eye-hand coordination problems where the accuracy and speed of performing a task decrease. As one gets older, their reaction time and dexterity are impaired.

Researchers have found a relationship between older age and a decline in fine motor skills. A review of studies has shown age-related changes in biochemistry, function, and brain structure, which affect motor skills. This accounts for the decline of hand-eye coordination in older adults.

In children, defects in eye-hand coordination can be noticed in a lack of handwriting and drawing skills. The child’s drawing may have poor orientation on the paper, and the child may have difficulties staying inside the lines while colouring.

hand-eye coordination
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The two main causes of poor hand-eye coordination are:

4.1. Visual Impairment

Loss of vision or visual impairment can cause difficulties in performing tasks without specialized assistance. There may also be a reduction in the visual field where the eye cannot see as wide without turning the head or body. This changes how a child understands the world.

Hence, vision impairment can cause a decline in hand-eye coordination and limit cognitive, neurological, emotional, and physical development.

4.2. Movement Disorder

Characterised by impaired body movements due to several reasons. An example of a movement disorder is Ataxia, characterized by a lack of coordination of voluntary movements.

Certain accidents or injuries can also cause movement restrictions. Reasons for movement disorders may be many, but it is one of the reasons for problems in hand-eye coordination.

5. Developing Hand-Eye Coordination

Eye-hand coordination has been developed since infancy. Infants are always eager to move their mouths, hands, and legs towards any person or object of interest. They constantly practice skills to move objects towards themselves or to move towards the objects.

By six months, infants can grab small objects without any hindrance and feed themselves. At this age, infants tend to poke at objects with their index fingers and hold one object in their hand while looking for another object with their eyes.

After six months, infants tend to reach and hold objects with one hand. They can also hold a cup by the handle with a careful manipulation of their hands. Dexterity improves at eight months of age when the infants start banging objects and can transfer objects from one hand to the other.

Milestones of hand-eye coordination at different ages in young children:

5.1. From Birth to 3 Years

  • Develop the vision to scan for objects and follow slow-moving objects with their eyes.
  • Begin basic hand-eye coordination skills with the development of fine motor skills like grabbing, throwing, reaching, dressing, feeding, etc.
  • Recognize concepts, places, and directions
hand-eye coordination at age 3
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5.2. Between 3 and 5 years

  • Develop a preference for right or left-handedness
  • Gain the ability to climb, balance, run, jump, push and pull
  • Develop dexterity in hand, eye, and body coordination with eye teaming and depth perception

5.3. Between 5 to 7 years

  • Improve fine motor skills like handwriting, handling tools with hands like scissors or a pencil,
  • Learn to focus on schoolwork with patience and spend hours on it daily.
  • Continue to develop skills of climbing, preference of using hands, running, jumping, etc.

6. Improve and Recover Hand-Eye Coordination

As seen above, the importance of eye-hand coordination is immense for performing activities in daily life. There are several activities to gain and improve this important skill.

6.1. Activities for Adults

Some activities adults can do to recover and improve their hand-eye coordination, which has depleted due to age.

6.1.1. Swimming

This activity is low-impact and can help improve a person’s fitness and improve hand-eye coordination. It can also help improve balance and agility to perform other activities.

6.1.2. Tai Chi

Combining meditative stretching and balance, Tai Chi helps improve fitness and eye-hand coordination.

6.1.3. Ball Games

Practising ball games that involve catching and throwing can improve hand-eye coordination. Juggling, basketball, and baseball can help improve the skill.

6.2. Activities for Children

Here are a few activities to improve your child’s hand-eye coordination.

6.2.1. Suspended Ball Activities

Pop a ball into a net, the net packaging you get for vegetables or fruits. Tie this ball and net to the end of a rope. Hang the string from a hook or a horizontal pole to a length reaching the child’s chest.

The child can push and catch or hit the ball with a bat. This activity allows the child to watch the ball carefully and catch or hit it with a bat. A variety of bats can be used to increase the challenge for the child.

The size of the ball can also differ to increase the challenge. Older children can use smaller balls like tennis balls.

hand-eye coordination
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6.2.2. Object Passing Games

This is a relay game played by children and adults alike. It is good for both indoors and outdoors.

Have the game participants stand in a line—place objects, a ball in their hands, or a bucket in front of them. The person in the front has to pass the object/ball to the person in the back, either by passing it overhead, twisting their body while passing through their hands, or passing from between the legs.

There may be a bucket at the end where they have to transfer all the objects/balls and may also have the last person running to the front after placing the object/ball in the bucket at the back.

There are several ways to play this game. Encourage the usage of both hands while playing the game. This game works to improve hand-eye coordination2.

6.2.3. Threading and Lacing

Threading beads or a lacing card is a good activity for children to improve their fine motor skills. Using big chunky beads and thick thread can help the child maintain stability. A pipe or stick can also be used for extra stability.

Lacing cards in different shapes is also a fun way to gain skill.

6.2.4. Ball Games

There are a variety of ball games that can help improve hand-eye coordination. Here are a few ball games that can make a good base for more complex games to be played later in age.

  • Rolling Ball

The children can sit with their legs apart and roll a ball between their legs from one to another. While doing so, they must check that the ball doesn’t touch their body. This shows the child tracking the ball with their eyes.

  • Passing Ball

Passing the ball from one to the other or tossing the ball around is also a good game to improve hand-eye coordination. The children could be standing in a line in a circle, and this game can be played with various modifications.

  • Toss and catch

Toss the ball up in the air and catch it as it comes down. To make the game more challenging, add a hoop or mark circle around the child to make the child throw the ball more linearly and control their movement.

hand-eye coordination
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6.2.5. Fitting Things Together

Some toys are designed to focus on the improvement of hand-eye coordination. Jigsaw puzzles, building blocks, or stacking towers encourage playing and improve coordination. This is a good activity for infants, enabling them to learn that items can fit on top of each other.

This later develops into a desire of wanting to throw and catch things. This is one of the easier ways to develop eye-hand coordination by letting children play with their toys.

7. The Bottom Line

This is a brief on hand-eye-hand coordination, what it is, its importance, problems, and ways to develop it.

Eye-hand coordination’s importance is great for performing tasks to their greatest efficiency through the simultaneous use of hand movements and sight work.

Good hand-eye coordination leads to a better life with proper motor control to play sports and perform daily tasks.

8. Frequently Asked Questions

8.1. What Are Hand-Eye Coordination Skills?

It is the ability of the body to coordinate hand movement based on information from the eye.

8.2. What Is an Example of Hand-Eye Coordination?

Grasping an object, catching and throwing a ball, playing an instrument while listening to music, etc. are some examples of hand-eye coordination.

8.3. What Are Symptoms of Poor Hand-Eye Coordination?

Individuals with poor hand-eye coordination may find it difficult to play sports, hit or catch a ball, have messy handwriting or even suffer from eye strain. Poor hand-eye coordination is caused by difficulty in visual-motor coordination

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  1. Ballard, Dana H., et al. “Hand-eye coordination during sequential tasks.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences 337.1281 (1992): 331-339. ↩︎
  2. Patel, Bindesh, and Pooja Bansal. “Effect of 4 week exercise program on hand eye coordination.” International Journal of Physical Education, Sports and Health 5.4 (2018): 81-84. ↩︎

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