Promoting Visual Skills


Information on this website should not be construed as medical or therapy advice and is provided only as general information. Please consult your physician and other health professionals for specific advice.

Activities to Promote good Visual Skills

Although it is in the realm of an eye specialist to treat
visual disorders- caretakers,  teachers and therapists can encourage  activities that promote good visual skills.

  • Present simple shape books to look at.
  • Place a moving mobile to look at from the crib.
  • Place baby on her belly so that she looks upward to reach for toys.
  • Carry baby around in a backpack or front carrier facing outward.
  • Provide push button toys that make things pop up or move.
Toddlers and Two Year Olds
  • Encourage pointing to named objects in the room.
  • Pointing to pictures in a book.
  • Tossing objects into containers or to another person.
  • Form boards, shape sorters, nesting cups, ring stacks.
  • Swatting at bubbles or suspended toys like a light tether ball.
  • Scribbling with crayons.
  • Imitating finger play songs.
  • Rolling a ball  back and forth.
  • Lots of movement activities.
  • Balloon toss (just keep it in the air).
  • Wind up bath toys.
  • Playing with Tornado Tubes.
  • Looking at bottle filled with oil, water and food coloring.
  • Tossing and catching a large ball.
  • Drawing shapes: cross, circle, square.
  • Puzzles, lacing boards, stringing beads.
  • Simple, large mazes.
  • Matching objects and pictures.
  • Lotto game.
  • Drawing a line between matching shapes.
  • Finding Hidden Pictures.
  • Hokey Pokey dance.
  • Tether ball.
  • Tracing over dotted or highlighted lines, shapes, letters etc.
  • More complex mazes.
  • Cutting out simple shapes.
  • Flashlight tag.
  • Place picture cards on the wall, child copies sequence.
  • Sorting a deck of cards into piles of each suit.
  • Balloon toss (make it travel to a named person).
  • Air Hockey, Noc Hockey, toy golf games.
  • Fly a kite.
  • Water volley ball.
  • Copy dot designs.
  • Copy geoboard, bead, block, peg board and Lite Brite designs.
  • Point to all the letter A's on the page, letter B's etc.
  • Hidden Pictures books.
  • Complete the Picture books.
  • What's Wrong with the Picture? books.
  • Candyland, Bingo and other simple board games.
  • Pouring liquids from a pitcher and watering the house plants.
  • Circling which two pictures are the same.
  • Crossing out pictures that are different.
  • Playing Go Fish  and other simple card games.
  • Lots of puzzles.
  • Drawing huge diagonal. crosses and infinity signs on the chalk board.
  • Forming shapes and letters in the air with fingers, then toes.
  • Playing a commercial  "Memory" game or card game "Concentration".
 Older Children     

  • Circling all the shapes on a page that are the same.
  • Writing letters inside large graph paper squares.
  • Arranging alphabet blocks alphabetically.
  • Coding/decoding games.    
  • Lots of card games (Spit, Solitaire, Slamwiche, Rummy, poker).
  • Dribbling the smallest size ball  possible.
  • Juggling two bean bags, three if able.
  • More complex puzzles and mazes.
  • Ball sports/target games (baseball, basketball, tennis, squash, soccer).  
  • Hitting a small suspended ball with a stick held horizontally between both hands.
  • Ping pong, Foosball, Pin ball.
  • Word searches 
  • Connect Four.
  • Yard games: Hit the penny, Red Light Green Light, Four Square, Spud.
  • Volleyball.
  • Dances with swinging (ballroom, square dance, folk, contra).
  • Forward Pass or Zoomball (ball zooms on ropes toward face).
  • Parachute games.
  • Simon (by Milton Bradley) requires remembering color and sound patterns.


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There are many skills involved in using the eyes for  vision:
  • A child must be able to fixate on a visual target such as
  • a rattle as she reaches out to grab it.
  • A child must be able to keep the eyes on a moving target
  • to visually track it as she tries to shoot the moving duck
    in the carnival.
  • A child must use saccadic eye movements to move
    from one word to another in order to read.
  • A child must be able to use both eyes together in order to
  • see three dimensional objects with binocular vision.
  • A child must be able to localize a moving target amongst
  • many such as when swatting at a bubble or finding mommy
    as she walks in a crowd.
  • A child must be able to converge the eyes on a target
  • such as a ball as it moves toward the nose.
  • A child must have good visual perceptual skills to understand
  • what she is seeing in order to read, write, draw, do puzzles
    and connect dots.
  • A child must be able to visually discriminate differences in
  • size, shape, directionality and color, especially in a busy
  • A child must have good visual memory to put all of these
  • skills to use after learning something new.
  • A child must demonstrate good eye-hand coordination to
  • perform tasks such as threading a needle that require
    much control.

snellen chart A child of course must also have good eyesight
(acuity) which is evaluated by
reading the
letters on the Snellen chart in the doctor's
Some optometrists only address acuity
or the
ability to focus, others look at functional
vision and how it impacts school work and
living skills. 


There are many other visual problems and diseases such
as cataracts, glaucoma
and macular degeneration that
mainly affect older persons  and will not be addressed

on this page. These ailments require a visit to an
ophthalmologist, a medical
doctor who specializes
in eye diseases. 
Please visit  Low Vision for more information.

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Common Visual Problems seen in Children

A child will probably  have difficulty with binocular vision when
one or both of the eyes turns inword or outword. The eye
muscles may not be working properly and one eye may be
stronger than the other other causing the stronger eye to do
all the work. This is often seen in individuals with muscular
disorders such as cerebral palsy and genetic abnormalities
such as Downs syndrome. This condition may be quite obvious
and parents usually will bring their child to receive vision care
at a young age. Many children are helped by vision therapy
that may involve special lenses, prisms, computer
and other techniques. Some doctors recommend eye exercises
or patching. 

However, sometimes visual problems are less
obvious unless the child is bumping into things
or overreaching. Children may avoid fine motor
activities which are difficult and their visual
problems may not be identified until they are
required to read and do paper and pencil work.

Sometimes when the eyes don't work well together a child
slants his head to the side so that only one eye is viewing the
paper. Another clue that something is wrong
is when a child
skips words or lines while reading either silently or out loud.
Visual problems should be ruled out when children are having
difficulties learning how to read. This requires more than just
reading an eye chart.

Children are typically able to visually track a slowly moving
object with isolated eye movements by the age of three
years. This means that the child only moves her eyes and
not her head. This requires good abilities to stabilize the
head and fixate. Some children with sensory integration
or visual perceptual problems find this very difficult to do
and they move their whole bodies rather than just the head
or eyes when shifting gaze. These children may also shift
their bodies or rotate paper when changing directions on
a maze rather than controlling the pencil to change directions.
This is another red flag to look at visual and perceptual
problems that impact learning.

Another visual problem often identified in school is difficulty
shifting eye fixation from the white board to paper and back
again or shifting gaze from one part of the paper to another.
Such a child may easily lose her place while reading. Using
a ruler under the reading line may help the child to keep her

For Everybody

View Finders and Movies  
Stereograms are 3D images hidden within another picture.
Relax, stare
at the picture, and the  image will start to take
shape. It may help to begin
staring with your nose close
against the picture and then slowly move
away from it
until comfortable.


  A Hole in My Heart
  ©2006 Gary W. Priester - Image used by permission of the artist

©2008 Barbara Smith  

Vision Resources
Visual Perceptual Activities
Barbara's Perceptual Games

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