These fine motor activities are provided for the Melissa & Doug blog by Cindy Utzinger, pediatric Occupational Therapist.
What do kicking a soccer ball, hitting a baseball, copying from the blackboard (or smart board), and reading all have in common? These activities all require a child to have good visual motor and visual perceptual skills.
By this I do not mean visual acuity. Acuity is sharpness of vision; whether or not your child can read the smallest row of letters off of the chart on the doctor’s wall that has a big E on the top. Visual motor skills and visual perceptual skills encompass much more than just seeing clearly.
- Visual motor skills can also be referred to as eye hand or eye foot coordination. Visual motor skills allow your child to coordinate their body movements in response to what they are seeing. These skills are required for so many of the activities that our children participate in including coloring, using scissors, handwriting, copying work, solving mazes or word finds, catching a ball, batting a ball, doing crafts, tying shoes, completing puzzles, playing an instrument, and is crucial for academic performance.
- Visual perceptual skills allow a child to gather visual information from the environment and integrate them with their other senses. These skills allow them to derive meaning and understanding from what they see and experience. Visual perceptual skills are important for so many things a child does and especially so when it comes to learning. These skills help them to learn to read, copy from a board or a book, avoid letter reversals, understand directional concepts such as left and right, remember things that they have seen, use both hands together in a coordinated manner, have good visual motor skills, and visualize objects or experiences. Visual perceptual skills also help a child to integrate what they see with their other senses to be able to do things such as ride a bike, play ball, or hear a sound (such as a fire truck) and visually recognize where it is coming from.
Another very important aspect of a child’s vision is their eye movements. There are several very important movements that the eyes need to be able to make. One of those is the ability of the eyes to smoothly move to track an object as it moves within the child’s visual field (smooth pursuits). Two other important movements of the eyes are convergence and divergence. This is the ability of the eyes to watch an object as it comes close to them and then as it moves out away from them. Just like the visual motor and visual perceptual skills, these eye movements are important for so many things with motor coordination and academic skills being pretty high up on that list.
By now you can probably tell that there is so much more to vision then just having 20/20 vision. The visual system is so much more complex then I think most people would ever realize and good vision is something most of us with good vision probably take for granted (I know I do!). As an Occupational Therapist, I am seeing a growing number of children who are struggling in these areas. What I want to do, then, is give you some ideas on activities that you can do with your children to help them develop strong visual perceptual and visual motor skills and eye movements.
- Fine motor activities
- Encourage your child to do paper and pencil activities such as word finds, finding the hidden picture, mazes, and dot to dots.
- Make a design out of toothpicks, pretzel sticks, popsicle sticks or dry noodles for your child and then have them copy your design.
- Encourage your child to do lacing activities such as the Lace and Trace Shapes.
- Have your child string beads with the Wooden Stringing Beads or household items such as dry noodles. You can have your child make up a design or try to duplicate your design.
- Sit a few feet away from your child on the floor with legs spread out in a V shape. Use the Froggy Kickball and simply roll it back and forth to each other. This is great for younger kids or kids who can’t do the activities listed below.
- Roll the Froggy Kickball to your child and have them try to kick it.
- Bounce the Froggy Kickball with your child.
- Give your child a spot to aim for on the wall a few inches to a few feet above their head and have them gently toss the Froggy Kickball against the wall and then catch it. Make it more challenging by setting a goal for them to reach with consecutive tosses and catches without dropping the ball.
- Play catch with the Froggy Toss and Grip game or the Froggy Toss and Catch Net and Ball game. Modify it to your child’s level by adjusting how close or far away you stand or by having them switch throwing and catching hands to make it more challenging or for more laughs.
- Hit the ball back and forth with your child using the Tootle Turtle Racquet and Ball Set. To make this more interesting or more challenging for older kids, have them hold both racquets and hit the ball back and forth from right to left.
- A simple game of balloon volleyball can be so much fun. To make it more fun, I like to use the racquets from the Tootle Turtle Racquet and Ball Set. You can hit the balloon back and forth with your child or have them hold both racquets and hit it from right to left by themselves.
Please make sure that if you concerned that your child may have visual motor or visual perceptual problems that you talk to their doctor and perhaps seek out an evaluation from a Developmental Optometrist.
Cindy Utzinger is a pediatric Occupational Therapist, handwriting tutor, and founder of Building Write Foundations LLC. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and two young children (a son and a daughter). In her free time she can be found running through the streets of her neighborhood to get some exercise or enjoying time on the lake with family and friends. Through her website (www.cindyutzinger.com) she provides parents, teachers, and caregivers with information regarding the importance of building each and every child’s sensory foundation and provides ways to help build their sensory foundation and their foundation for learning. Through her website she also blogs and tackles issues dealing with handwriting problems, ADD/ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, and diagnoses on the autism spectrum.