The Importance of Hand-Eye Coordination

Boy (5-7) holding baseball, close-up of hand

Hand-eye coordination is the ability to track the movements of the hands with the eyes, thus enabling the eyes to send important signals to the brain about hand movement. Poor hand-eye coordination can greatly compromise your ability to exercise and can also affect everyday tasks such as writing.

How It Works

Hand-eye coordination allows the eyes to indirectly coordinate the movements of the hands. Your eyes send electrical signals to your brain providing information about visual stimuli. Your brain then sends signals to your hands telling them how to move in response to these stimuli. This complex process occurs in a split second, but errors in the process can result in difficulties coordinating movement, balance problems, trouble focusing the eyes on the hand's movements during exercise and sports and difficulties with learning-related tasks such as reading and writing.

Gross Motor Skills

The movement and coordination of large muscle groups involves gross motor skills. Gross motor skills frequently require the hands to coordinate with the eyes. These skills include hitting a baseball and swinging a golf club. However, gross motor skills aren't just used in sports. Everyday tasks such as driving also require gross motor skills. People with strong hand-eye coordination tend to have good reflexes and fast relaxation times. A baseball player can, for example, easily catch a surprise ball. But poor hand-eye coordination can increase reaction times and make it difficult for people to perfectly align their movements. For example, a person with poor hand-eye coordination might swing a golf club without ever making contact with the ball.

Fine Motor Skills

Hand-eye coordination also affects fine motor skills -- the small movements of a muscle or muscle, usually in the hands and wrists. Fine motor skills are involved in tasks necessary to prepare for sports such as tying the shoelaces, as well as sporting activities such as correctly gripping a ball. Fine motor skills are also necessary for everyday activities such as writing. People with weak hand-eye coordination that affects fine motor skills may have trouble gripping things and aiming. Because fine motor skills are associated with reading and writing, people with poor hand-eye coordination may struggle with these tasks, causing them to be diagnosed with a learning disability.

Improving Coordination

Hand-eye coordination tends to deteriorate with age. However, regular physical activity that utilizes both fine and gross motor skills can help. Try a combination of sports, writing, reading and similar tasks that improve dexterity and coordination. Some people suffer from disorders that affect hand-eye coordination; some learning disabilities and developmental delays alter hand-eye coordination. Occupational therapy with a qualified therapist can help.