Hand-eye coordination (or eye-hand coordination) is vital to performing most of the everyday activities we often take for granted. It’s so automatic that we don’t even think about it when it’s working as it should.
What is hand-eye coordination?
Hand-eye coordination is basically the ability of the hand(s) to perform a task or activity based on information received by the eyes. Throwing and catching a ball are classic examples of actions that require good hand-eye coordination.
Having good hand-eye coordination means that the hand and eyes are able to work together as a team. The information the eyes receive guides the movements made by the hand.
But kids develop their hand-eye coordination at different rates. It comes more naturally to some than others. When kids are struggling with their hand-eye coordination, it can interfere with their learning across all areas of the curriculum. If you notice that happening, the exercises below can help.
How to improve hand-eye coordination
Here are 5 drawing exercises to improve hand-eye coordination that you might not have thought of…
Tracing often gets a bad rap in the art world. But as long as kids don’t claim work they’ve traced as their own, there’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, tracing can help train the eye and hand to work together and it also builds confidence.
Find a subject kids are interested in and have them trace it! Coloring books, comics, patterns, and cool designs are all good choices for this.
Drawing from imagination is wonderful, but if improving hand-eye coordination is the goal, tracing may offer the best route to get there.
2. Connect the dots
Connecting dots is another great method for developing hand-eye coordination. Similar to tracing, the student follows a predetermined path, only now they just see the beginning and ending of that path.
Age appropriate dot-to-dot pictures can be fun and engaging for kids. The eyes and hand have to work together to complete the picture, plus they must keep consecutive numbers in mind. The mystery of what the picture will be when completed supplies the motivation.
‘Dot Monsters’ are a spin-off on dot-to-dot pictures. But in this case, the dots are randomly placed by the student (with eyes closed!) and connected to form a creative creature. Each one is unique!
Lettering artist, Gia Graham, also suggests connecting dots as a warm-up before a drawing project.
Make two dots across from each other on opposite edges of your paper. Then connect them with long loose strokes, right to left, then left to right. First with lines straight across your paper, then curving upward, and then curving downward. Next connect your dots back and forth with wavy lines, loopy lines, and zig-zag lines. Train your hand to keep taking your pencil to that next dot.
3. Practice drawing simple shapes
Drawing large, loose circles is another effective warm-up that will train your hand and eyes to work together. Try the ‘Circle Challenge’ for controlling pencil pressure at the same time that you connect the starting and ending points of your circles.
Learning the steps to ‘Draw a Star‘ helps kids ages 4-5 connect a beginning and ending point to draw this familiar motif. You’ll be finding stars everywhere once they get the hang of it… it’s so fun!
4. “Copy Cat” Drawing
This is where kids work in pairs to take turns trying to closely copy something their partner has drawn. This is one time when it’s good to be a “copy cat”!
‘Echo Drawing’ is similar to this, but in a worksheet format. These are great in a sub folder or to pull out for early finishers or during testing week.
Ready for a greater test of hand-eye coordination? The ‘Mirror Symmetry Challenge‘ will really get you looking closely and concentrating on the direction your pencil is going.
Have students fold their paper in half and draw a very simple design on one side of the fold, beginning and ending on the fold. Then they copy that design in reverse, creating a mirror image, on the opposite side. It’s even more challenging than it sounds!
Contour drawing is well known for building hand-eye coordination. It takes a surprising amount of focus and concentration to move your pencil at the same speed as your eye moves around the edges of your subject. And ‘Blind Contour Drawing’ may be the ultimate exercise for training your eyes and your hand to work together as a team!
Want more ideas??
Hand-eye coordination is also closely linked to ‘fine motor skills’, like stringing beads, threading and lacing, weaving, and cutting with scissors. Try these in addition to the drawing exercises above.
Throwing and catching, juggling a ball, and batting a balloon back and forth also help develop hand-eye coordination. These involve larger muscle groups that add an additional, more physical level to these activities.
Kids can use all of the exercises above to improve their hand-eye coordination. And not only that, they’ll have fun doing it!
an inspiring quote:
“Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you’re willing to practice, you can do.” ~ Bob Ross
I’ve been noticing a pattern lately… whenever you try to learn something new, the single thing that yields the most improvement is PRACTICE.
It doesn’t seem to matter what it is you’re trying to learn… the same concept applies. “Practice makes progress”.
Whether you’re learning to draw portraits, play the piano, or write poetry, practice will take you far. Sometimes I wish there was a shortcut, but it’s really all about “putting in the reps”.
So, what may look like “talent” to others, is really the result of time spent in trial and error. Make mistakes, learn from them, try again, repeat.
But to persevere through failures and setbacks, you need to have at least enough interest to keep pursuing that thing. This may be why it’s often so hard for kids to practice an instrument. It can take a lot of practice before something becomes “fun” enough to trigger intrinsic motivation.
The drawing exercises above can help improve hand-eye coordination for anyone who does them. But it will take more than doing any of these just a single time or two. Developing hand-eye coordination takes practice, too!