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What Is Hand-Eye Coordination? - Definition, Skills & Development

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  • 0:01 What Is Hand-Eye Coordination?
  • 1:43 Development of…
  • 4:57 Activities to Build…
  • 6:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde
Have you ever seen a baby trying to pick up a toy? Kind of interesting to watch as they learn to grip and grasp, right? How does hand-eye coordination work, and when does it develop? Read on to find out.

What Is Hand-Eye Coordination?

When you think of hand-eye coordination it may bring up images of elite athletes throwing, catching or hitting balls with tip-top precision. Actually, we all have some degree of hand-eye coordination, even those of us who have trouble dribbling. Hand-eye coordination is defined as the use of the eyes to direct muscles towards a task, such as eating or brushing our hair. The vision system coordinates input and sends signals to muscles to make our hands move. How does that work? Let's take a look.

When we talk about vision, most of us just think of what we see. But when we use visual acuity, or how we discriminate details in what we see, we're moving beyond simply looking at pretty objects. We use visual acuity for hand-eye movements and coordination. Hand-eye movement needs several things to happen at once to be successful.

First, visual input is processed in our brains. Next, the brain sends signals to muscles to move to a specific location, determined by eye movement and focus. Finally, our muscles require fine motor skills, or the ability to control small muscle movements like finger grasps for picking up something small. This includes wrist and hand movements too. Sometimes gross motor skills, or larger range muscle movements, are used too, like for waiving an arm or lifting a leg. Whew! Now that we got that out of the way, let's zoom in on Olivia and watch how her hand-eye coordination develops.

Development of Hand-Eye Coordination

Although all children are unique and grow in their own way, we can predict how and when their bodies will develop with some accuracy. When Olivia was born her hands were mostly in fists and she wasn't consciously able to move any part of her body. Soon, however, she gained control. Here's what to expect as she grows.

Infancy

During infancy, as Olivia's eyes begin to learn to focus, she is able to follow objects as they move into and out of her line of vision. She's developing eye muscles she'll use soon to coordinate with her hands. Soon we'll see her:

  • Reach for, swipe at and grab objects, like her feet, her bottle or a rattle
  • Hold toys and move them from one hand to another
  • See objects at a distance and focus on them
  • Pick up objects without looking from her hand to the object

Toddler

Olivia grows to be a toddler. At her first birthday party she is able to rip the paper off her presents and pick up her new toys like a pro. She's still developing her hand-eye coordination though. Here's what we can expect for the next year.

  • Olivia develops a pincer grasp, or picking up an object using her thumb and forefinger
  • She begins to take pleasure in stacking objects and knocking them down
  • By about a year and a half she is able to hold a large crayon and make lines or scribbles
  • At play time Olivia enjoys toys that let her push, pull, twist, turn and screw
  • She is getting better at feeding herself and can successfully use spoons, cups and sometimes pour liquid form one container to another
  • During this time, Olivia will begin to show a hand preference

Three to Five

During ages three to five, Olivia is getting ready to go to preschool and will continue to grow and develop her hand-eye skills. Her teachers will pay close attention to her growth. Here's what they'll note:

  • Olivia is able to dress herself, zip her coat and brush her teeth and, by age five, tie her own shoes
  • At art time she holds pencils and crayons correctly and is developing precision when coloring
  • She can hold scissors and cut along a line
  • Olivia is great at puzzles and is able to create elaborate buildings with blocks

School Age

As she enters elementary school, Olivia's hand-eye coordination skills are finely tuned, but she'll still pick up a skill or two along the way. In fact, she'll continue to grow and advance her hand-eye coordination until she's about twelve years old.

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