Did you know that the visual system is one of the primary systems that guides movement in infants? Yep, it’s true. Did you know that in order to have an optimal visual system you need more that 20/20 vision? I bet you know this one… did you know that there is an explosion of visual motor and perceptual skills that develop in those early childhood years?
Development happens in a continuum, in a beautiful sequence. There is not one system that is more important than the other, nor is there one set of skills that contributes to functioning more than another. The visual system has many moving pieces and they are all equally important. Visual acuity (20/20 vision) gets the most attention. But the other parts of the vision system are just as important to our everyday life. That is what I am going to highlight in this post
Visual Motor Skills
These are the foundation of eye-hand coordination, where the eyes and the hands learn to play together. There is a direct link between visual motor and visual perceptual skills and success in reading and handwriting.
Visual Perceptual Skills
1. Figure ground skills lets us pick out a dime in a sea of nickels, let us find that special Lego guy’s hat, it lets us pick out a hidden green veggie in our pasta!
2. Visual spatial skills tell us if we can crawl under the stools without getting stuck– super important!
3. Visual memory helps us recognize our moms face in a crowded room.
4. Visual closure lets us pick out our favorite book when all we see is the corner peeking out from under a pile of toys.
5. Form consistency allows us to recognize our favorite PJs crumpled up in the bottom of the hamper.
So now, here are my 4 favorite games to develop these skills with your little one:
Eye Spy: Classic game of eye spy is my go-to game for long car rides and of course visual skill. It works on eye movements, figure ground, and visual spatial skills. Start with looking for something in a room, then build up to standing in one spot and moving the eyes independent of head movements.
Sorting items: Here is where you can channel you inner Marie Kondo. Sorting can help your visual perceptual skills, while emphasizing figure ground, form consistency and spatial relation skills.
Puzzles: From simple shape sorters to large puzzles this is an excellent way to develop visual perceptual skills; specifically form consistency, special relations.
Mazes and dot to dots: Great ways to develop those visual motor skills, for real. Even tracing over the maze or connecting the dots with your finger can develop this skill.
It can be a lot to think about development and its impact on our children; but always remember that making it fun and meaningful is key to its success!
The games and skills discussed above are general suggestions and are not to replace professional recommendations. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your child’s development make sure you consult your local occupational therapist.