Hand-eye coordination is the ability of the vision system to coordinate
the information received through the eyes to control, guide, and direct
the hands in the accomplishment of a given task, such as handwriting or
catching a ball. Hand-eye coordination uses the eyes to direct attention
and the hands to execute a task.
Vision is the process of understanding what is seen by the eyes. It
involves more than simple visual acuity (ability to distinguish fine
details). Vision also involves fixation and eye movement abilities,
accommodation (focusing), convergence (eye aiming), binocularity (eye
teaming), and the control of hand-eye coordination. Most hand movements
require visual input to be carried out effectively. For example, when
children are learning to draw, they follow the position of the hand
holding the pencil visually as they make lines on the paper. Between four
and 14 months of age, infants explore their world and develop hand-eye
coordination, in conjunction with
fine motor skills
. Fine motor skills are involved in the control of small muscle movements,
such as when an infant starts to use fingers with a purpose and in
coordination with the eyes.
Infants are eager to move their eyes, their mouths, and their bodies
toward the people and objects that comfort and interest them. They
practice skills that let them move closer to desired objects and also move
desired objects closer to themselves. By six months of age, many infants
begin reaching for objects quickly, without jerkiness, and may be able to
feed themselves a cracker or similar food. Infants of this age try to get
objects within their reach and objects out of their reach. Many infants
are also able to look from hand to object, to hold one object while
looking for a second object, and to follow the movements of their hands
with their eyes. At this age, most infants begin to poke at objects with
their index fingers. After six months, infants are usually able to
manipulate a cup and hold it by the handle. Many infants at this age also
begin to reach for objects with one arm instead of both. At about eight
months of age, as dexterity improves, many infants can use a pincher
movement to grasp small objects, and they can also clap and wave their
hands. They also begin to transfer objects from hand to hand, and bang
objects together. Hand-eye coordination development milestones are as
Between birth and three years of age, infants can accomplish the following
Between three and five years of age, little children develop or continue
to develop the following skills:
Children between five and seven years old develop or continue to develop
the following skills:
Hand-eye coordination problems are usually first noted as a lack of skill
in drawing or writing. Drawing shows poor orientation on the page and the
child is unable to stay "within the lines" when using a
coloring book. Often the child continues to depend on his or her hand for
inspection and exploration of
or other objects. Poor hand-eye coordination can have a wide variety of
causes, but the main two conditions responsible for inadequate hand-eye
coordination are vision problems and
Vision impairment is a loss of vision that makes it hard or impossible to
perform daily tasks without specialized adaptations. Vision impairment may
be caused by a loss of visual acuity, in which the eye does not see
objects as clearly as usual. It may also be caused by a loss of visual
field, in which the eye cannot see as wide an area as usual without moving
the eyes or turning the head. Vision impairment changes how a child
understands and functions in the world. Impaired vision necessarily
affects a child's hand-eye coordination, as well as cognitive,
emotional, neurological, and physical development by limiting the range of
experiences and the kinds of information to which the child is exposed.
Movement disorders are characterized by impaired body movements. They have
a variety of causes. An example is ataxia, characterized by a lack of
coordination while performing voluntary movements. The problem may appear
as clumsiness, inaccuracy, or instability. Movements are not smooth and
may appear disjointed or jerky. Another example is hypertonia, a condition
marked by an abnormal increase in muscle tension and a reduced ability of
a muscle to stretch. Whatever
Good hand-eye coordination is needed to play baseball.
(Photograph by Henry Horenstein. Harcourt.)
their origin, movement disorders almost always prevent the normal
development of hand-eye coordination.
When a child is between one and two years old, parents should start
encouraging activities that allow the child to learn how to use hands to
manipulate objects and learn how different things fit together. These
activities are extremely important for the development of hand-eye
coordination, which is itself crucial for the overall physical development
of the child. Some toys are designed to assist hand-eye coordination
development. They usually involve "fitting things together,"
but parents can also use simple kitchen cups or bowls. Letting children
with these objects teaches them how to fit objects together. Jigsaw
puzzles are also good hand-eye coordination developers, as are blocks or
tower toys that encourage playing and coordination. These toys help
children learn what items can fit on top of each other and which ones will
stack easily. By the time children reach two or three years of age, they
are ready to start throwing things and wanting to catch them. These play
activities are a great way to improve hand-eye coordination. Most child
development professionals believe that the best thing parents can do when
trying to improve hand-eye coordination in their children is simply to let
them play with a variety of toys on their own.
—A condition marked by impaired muscular coordination, most
frequently resulting from disorders in the brain or spinal cord.
—Using both eyes at the same time to see an image.
—The natural movement of the eyes inward to view objects
Fine motor skill
—The abilities required to control the smaller muscles of the
body for writing, playing an instrument, artistic expression and craft
work. The muscles required to perform fine motor skills are generally
found in the hands, feet and head.
Gross motor skills
—The abilities required to control the large muscles of the body
for walking, running, sitting, crawling, and other activities. The
muscles required to perform gross motor skills are generally found in
the arms, legs, back, abdomen and torso.
—Having excessive muscular tone or strength.
—Controlled movements of muscle groups. Fine motor skills involve
tasks that require dexterity of small muscles, such as buttoning a
shirt. Tasks such as walking or throwing a ball involve the use of gross
—Sharpness or clearness of vision.
Bayley Scales of Infant Development
Ball, Morven F.
Developmental Coordination Disorder: Hints and Tips for the Activities
of Daily Living.
Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2002.
Bekkering, H., and U. Sailer. "Commentary: coordination of eye and
hand in time and space."
Progress in Brain Research
140 (2002): 365–73.
Carey, D. P. "Eye-hand coordination: eye to hand or hand to
10, no. 11 (June 2000): R416–19.
Crawford, J. D., et al. "Spatial transformations for eye-hand
Journal of Neurophysiology
92, no. 1 (July 2004): 10–9.
Fogt, N., et al. "The influence of head movement on the accuracy of
a rapid pointing task."
73, no. 11 (November 2002): 665–73.
Henriques, D. Y., et al. "Geometric computations underlying
eye-hand coordination: orientations of the two eyes and the head."
Experimental Brain Research
152, no. 1 (September 2003): 70–8.
Johansson, R. S., et al. "Eye-hand coordination in object
Journal of Neuroscience
21, no. 17 (September 2001): 6917–32.
Pelz, J., et al. "The coordination of eye, head, and hand movements
in a natural task."
Experimental Brain Research
139, no. 3 (August 2001): 266–77.
Sailer, U., et al. "Spatial and temporal aspects of eye-hand
coordination across different tasks."
Experimental Brain Research
134, no. 2 (September 2000): 163–73.
Udermann, B. E., et al. "Influence of cup stacking on hand-eye
coordination and reaction time of second-grade students."
Perception & Motor Skills
98, no. 2 (April 2004): 409–14.
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
141 Northwest Point Boulevard, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007–1098.
Web site: http://www.aap.org.
American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).
4720 Montgomery Lane, PO Box 31220, Bethesda, MD 20824–1220. Web
American Psychological Association (APA).
750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002–4242. Web site:
Child Development Institute (CDI).
3528 E Ridgeway Road, Orange, California 92867. Web site:
"Activities for infants which develop hand eye and hand foot
A Fit Tot
. Available online at
(accessed November 29, 2004).