Peeling potatoes to add to any dish is an excellent activity to work on bimanual coordination, using the two hands together skillfully. When using a peeler, one hand has to hold the potato firmly to allow the peeler to work. Naturally engaging the non-dominant hand to stabilize the potato allows the preferred hand to peel.
To start, peel hand-over-hand with your child.
If the non-dominant hand is a strong stabilizer, focus on strengthening the preferred hand’s “pressure modulation,” by encouraging your child to apply steady, even pressure to the peeler.
Bimanual coordination (especially leader-assist skills, where the two hands have different tasks) prepares young hands to hold the paper down to color, draw or paint with the preferred hand, when the need to hold it down is not nearly as compelling as holding down a slippery potato!
Understandably, using a potato peeler seems like lots of fun to kids, but unsafe to parents. Enter my daughter Tova Warburg, honorary occupational therapist, who can cleverly adapt almost any activity for the 3-6 year set:
Put your kids winter gloves on (the $1.00 practically disposable kind work well),
Grab a potato peeler with a grip, such as the OXO
Hand-over-hand guide them in taking long strokes with the right amount of pressure
Rest the potatoes on a dish towel or non-slip Rubbermaid mat to keep them from slipping
Voila! You will have clean potatoes and happy, engaged children finessing their bimanual skills and developing pressure modulation.
Submitted by Chaye Lamm Warburg, Director, POTS