Practical OT Activities for Home – Part 3

Occupational therapists often work with children to remediate visual motor skills. These are foundational skills that integrate visual perception and motor coordination. When these skills are effectively working together, children can participate in daily activities such as cutting, coloring, writing, tying shoelaces, catching, or kicking effectively.

Visual perception is the ability to perceive, differentiate, and interpret visual information (what is seen through our eyes). Visual perception includes 5 areas: visual discrimination, spatial relationships, visual memory, figure-ground, and visual closure.

The following are activities for home practice for these 5 areas of visual perception, as well as for home practice of visual motor integration.

VISUAL DISCRIMINATION

What Is It?
Visual discrimination is the ability to distinguish between features in different objects. It is the process by which we can tell that objects are different in shape, size, color, etc.

Strategies to Help

  • Language is important for visual discrimination – help children learn vocabulary and definition for differences/similarities
  • Help children connect words with what they see: position, shape, color, size
  • Start with objects that only have one feature that is different

Activities to Try

  • Sorting objects into categories of similarities
  • Spot differences/similarities in similar pictures
  • Find hidden objects in a picture
  • Matching cards
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Play “I spy”

SPATIAL RELATIONS

What Is It?
Understanding spatial relations allows a child to know where two or more objects are in relation to each other and to themselves.

Strategies to Help

  • Teach language/labels for spatial directions
  • Explain personal space: leave space for others, etc.

Activities to Try

  • Obstacle courses (i.e., go over, under, around, through, between, in front, behind, etc.)
  • Games:
    • Follow the leader
    • Simon Says
    • Follow a map for a treasure hunt
    • Twister
    • Pin the tail on the donkey
  • Mazes
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Origami crafts
  • Draw a floor plan of a room
  • Dot to Dot

VISUAL MEMORY

What Is It?
Visual memory is the ability to recall visual information. This is an important skill when learning to write, as children need to be able to recall what letters look like in order to start writing them.

Strategies to Help

  • Work in an environment free from distractions
  • Memory tricks to help:
    • Verbalizing what they see
    • Visualize items in their mind
    • Make-up stories

Activities to Try

  • Games:
    • Study a person: After child closes eyes, make a change to the person’s clothing to see if child can identify the change
    • Memory card game
    • Close eyes and describe:
      • The room they are in
      • The clothes they are wearing
    • Remember and describe:
      • What they had for breakfast
      • What an animal looks like
      • What they saw out the window
      • A picture
    • Study objects: After child closes eyes, remove one object to see if child can identify which one is missing
    • Copy designs/patterns from memory (drawing, using blocks, beads, pegboard, popsicle sticks)

FIGURE GROUND

What Is It?
Figure ground is a visual perceptual skill that allows us to focus on an object/stimulus against a busy background. Figure ground perception can help a child to find things in a messy drawer, cupboard, or toy box.

Strategies to Help

  • Organize items into specific places so that they are easier to find
  • Use contrasting colors when displaying important information
  • Help your child to verbalize what they are looking for

Activities to Try

  • Finding things:
    • Story books: i.e., “Where’s Waldo”
    • Hidden object worksheets
    • Words in a newspaper
    • Lego pieces in a pile
  • Play ‘I spy’
  • Find objects of the same color or shape in a room
  • Play “Bingo”
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Word search

VISUAL CLOSURE

What Is It?
Visual closure is the ability to complete a picture from memory, when given only a part of it. Visual closure is dependent on having good visual memory.

Strategies to Help

  • Point out different parts of a picture and how they relate to the whole
  • Use objects that children can touch and feel

Activities to Try

  • Legos
  • Build words
    • Use magnetic letters
    • Scrabble
    • Boggle
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Completing the missing part in a picture:
    • Drawing half of picture
    • Make a design (with blocks or pegboard) and have child complete a mirror image
  • Guess the image and complete:
    • Dot to dot
    • Color by Number
  • Copying designs (drawing, using blocks, beads, pegboard, popsicle sticks)
  • Copying/writing words that have parts (letters, parts of letters) missing
  • Tracing activities

VISUAL MOTOR INTEGRATION

What Is It?
Visual motor integration is the ability to use our eyes and hands effectively; it is the ability to integrate both our visual systems and our motor systems to help with our daily activities. In school, children use visual motor integration skills for tasks such as copying, drawing, or writing.

Strategies to Help

  • Encourage copying whole body actions
  • Encourage tracing, copying drawings, letters, designs
  • Start with gross motor activities and then move to fine motor ones
  • Teach left to right, counterclockwise circles, diagonal lines

Activities to Try

  • Practice drawing, writing in a variety of materials:
    • Magna Doodle
    • Sand trays
    • Blackboard
    • Paper on sandpaper
    • Shaving cream
    • Sidewalk chalk
    • Finger paint
    • Paintbrush
  • Copy movement patterns (can use ribbons!)
    • Simon Says
    • Animal walks
  • Dot to dot
    • Try cutting dot to dot pictures without drawing lines
  • Origami
  • Use graph paper for design copying, making patterns
  • Spirographs
  • Mazes
  • Coloring activities
  • Games:
    • Operation
    • Pick up Sticks
    • Ants in the Pants

How can I help you?