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Your wonderful hands

hand; hands; finger; fingers; thumb; wrist; palm;


What is a hand?

Hands are those very useful things at the ends of your arms!

our wonderful handsThe human hand is different to the hands or paws of other animals, because it has fingers and a thumb that can work together. The hands of our nearest relatives, the apes, also have thumbs like ours!

Our thumb can work with each of our fingers, including our smallest finger and our ring finger, so we can do much more complicated things than most animals.

Our thumbs help us to pick things up and use tools.

Our hands help us to do so many things like writing, holding, carrying, playing games, using a computer, texting on phones and a million other things.

The inside story on hands

We have four fingers and an opposable (say op-oh-zab-el) thumb. Opposable means that it can move towards the fingers and help them to do their work.

Each finger has 3 bones and the thumb has two bones.

The diagram below shows you what a hand looks like inside the skin.
diagram of the hand showing the bone structure

The hand is attached to the arm by the wrist.

  • The hand has 27 bones.
  • There are 8 bones in the wrist.
  • There are 5 bones in the palm which link to the digits (fingers and thumb).
  • There are 2 main sets of muscles and tendons. Flexor muscles bend the fingers and thumb, and extensors straighten them out again.
    • Flexors are fastened to the underside of the forearm
    • Extensors are connected to the top of the forearm.

You can see how they work if you close and open your fingers.

Why hands make us special

working with our handsHuman hands not only do the tasks we need to do, but they help us to communicate with others.

  • Stroking and patting can show others that we care about them.
  • We use hands to defend ourselves.
  • We can play musical instruments.
  • We can become skilful in crafts and arts.
  • We use our hands in sign language.
  • We can write down our thoughts.
  • We use hands to show other road users where we want to go when we're riding bikes.
  • Some people seem to talk with their hands when they are talking to others.

holding handsFingers can also be used to communicate.

The index finger is often used to point at someone or something, although we sometimes say it is rude to point at someone.

The third finger is known as the ring finger. Women and sometimes men will wear a ring on the finger of the left hand, or in some cultures the right, to show that they are married or engaged to be married.

Some amazing things about hands

Do you know that some people can bend their thumbs to touch their wrists?

Hands are so important to us that there are many words in English that have the word hand in them. Words like handy (meaning close to hand), handwriting, handiwork, handful. I'm sure you can think of lots more.


Then there are the hands of a clock, a hand of cards, from "hand-to-hand", "off-hand" and even handsome!

Have you noticed all the hand signals sports coaches use to direct their players? Especially in baseball!

Looking after your hands

As hands are so important to us, we need to look after them.

Keep them clean.

  • Use soap to wash both sides of your hands, your wrists, and between your fingers.
    wash you hands
  • Wash under your nails; use a nailbrush if you have been grubbing about on the beach or in the garden.
  • Rinse your hands and dry them well.
  • Hands need to be clean before you prepare any food and before you eat, so that germs don't get into your mouth.
  • Always wash your hands when you have been to the loo or toilet or whatever you call it at your place.

Protect your hands

  • protect your handsWear gloves if you are working in the garden, helping to paint, or clearing up outside or in the shed. There are different kinds of gloves for different jobs.
  • Wear gloves or mitts if you are playing a sport where you may damage your hands. Your coach will tell you what you need.
  • Wear gloves in winter to keep your hands warm.
  • Look after your nails and check them to see that you don't get an infection under them.
  • Take care around hot things - wear oven gloves if you are getting things out of the oven or handling hot plates. You should have an adult around when you are doing this.
  • Wash any cuts straight away to keep germs out.
  • Don't forget the back of your hands when you put on sunscreen.

What kids say

"I started to learn the piano when I was 6. Now I can play well because I practise a lot and my fingers are strong." Alice

"I'm learning to type on the computer. It was hard at first but now I can nearly use all my fingers." Josh


"My writing is getting neater and not as big now that I am 7." Jason

"I like drawing and mum says I can take lessons when I am older. I draw lots of animals."

"I broke my finger but they didn't put plaster on it. They just fastened my broken finger to the next finger, and it's okay now." Zeffi

"I bent my fingers back and it really hurt for a few days, but it's OK now." Marsha

Dr Kate says:

Dr Kate
Aren't hands wonderful?
Have you ever hurt one of your fingers? Even if it is the littlest finger it can be really difficult to do things, can't it?

Look after your hands, and they will continue to do their work all of your life.

Something to do

Have you ever made pictures with your hands?

  • Shine a lamp at the wall and use your hands to make shadow pictures.
  • Paint your hand with water colour paint and press it onto paper to make a picture. You could give it to your mum or nana to keep and remind her of when you were a little kid.
  • Draw round your hand on coloured paper then cut out and make a picture, use the shapes for leaves on a tree or lots of other things.
  • Cut out shapes from material and sew them onto jumpers, jeans or a wall hanging. You may need help if you are using a sewing machine.
Hands are for loving,
Hands are for sharing,
Hands are for working
And hands are for caring.
Hands can protect
And hands can defend.
Reach out your hand
And make a friend.

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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