Opposable Thumbs: Finger Taping Challenge

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As human beings, we use our thumbs for a lot of things. We can hold on to items tightly, pick things up, and twist knobs all thanks to our opposable thumbs. 

Opposable-Thumbs-Bag-of-Chips

How do animals without thumbs manipulate everyday objects? Can you imagine life as a lion or an anteater and use your claws instead of your hands? 

In this simple finger taping challenge, we are going to explore just how useful our opposable thumbs are.

Who has Opposable Thumbs?

Humans are not the only species with opposable thumbs. Primates, such as gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans use their opposable thumbs to eat, pick up things, as well as hold branches and climb trees. 

Other animals that have opposable thumbs include certain koalas, pandas, possums, and opossums. Most birds have an opposable digit on the foot known as halluxes.

The Importance of Opposable Thumbs

Our thumbs are called “opposable” because they are capable of moving toward and touching the other fingers on the same hand. Since the thumbs are attached to a different part of our hands than our other fingers, they can move separately. 

The opposable thumbs help to make doing certain tasks much easier (or even possible). For example, thumbs help us grip onto something tightly so that we can apply leverage. 

Without your thumbs, there are limitations to what you can do. Let’s explore just how difficult life would be without opposable thumbs!

Finger Taping Challenge

Materials: 

  • Masking tape (you can use other types of tape too, but masking tape hurts less when you rip it off)
  • Water bottle
  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Shoe with lace
  • Scissors

Directions:

  1. Tape your thumb to your index finger on both hands. Make sure the tape is not too tight, or else you may lose circulation.
  2. Explore what you can or cannot do without thumbs. Some ideas include:
    1. Open a water bottle.
    2. Write your name on a piece of paper. 
    3. Fold a paper airplane.
    4. Cut a piece of paper with scissors.
    5. Tie your shoelace.
    6. Open a jar of jam.
    7. Open a bag of chips.
    8. Pick up a tennis ball and throw it.
    9. Pick up something small with a pair of chopsticks.
Opposable Thumbs Chopsticks

How did you do? Could you complete all the challenges, or are some just too difficult without opposable thumbs?

My kids thought this activity was so fun. They ran around the house looking to see if there are anything they can’t do without thumbs. 

Opposable Thumbs Write Name

At the end of the challenge, my kids gained a new appreciation for their thumbs. Even the tasks they were able to complete took 3 times as long to do. Some tasks like writing are doable, but the quality wouldn’t be as good. 

And as an adult and a mom, I can’t imagine cooking without thumbs. Imagine how many times you would drop a cooking utensil? And you wouldn’t be able to use tongs! 

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