Occupational Therapy at Home

occupational therapy at home

Occupational therapy at home is an important topic to address. Occupational therapy practitioners tackle supporting daily activities in clients of all ages, and so integrating OT interventions into the home setting is essential. In this blog post, we’re covering how to set up occupational therapy home programs, how to support carryover of OT goals in the home, and home-based OT activities that support goal achievement. Let’s get started! 

Occupational therapy at home

Occupational Therapy at Home

Pediatric occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants work with children of all ages and developmental abilities. In therapy sessions, OTs address the whole lifespan and target goals designed to support the individual and the family so the individual can prosper. Whether in schools, outpatient settings, hospitals, the community, or other environment, there are functional tasks to be done. All aspects of living is a task that occupies one’s time and these are skills that an OT can support. 

Occupational therapy at home is a continuum of care, and this is because the home is a natural setting for living. It’s the place for self-care, dressing, bathing, toileting, eating, and other activities of daily living (ADLs).

The home is also a natural setting for other aspects of daily life: instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). The term IADLs refers to tasks such as meal preparation, home management, shopping, paying bills, managing medications, laundry, and other tasks. These daily living activities are part of one’s life but not always a task that is completed each day. These are also covered in occupational therapy interventions, however, because they impact one’s ability to function.

The occupational therapist working with children, or pediatric occupational therapy professionals support children in the daily tasks that are important to them, and may include aspects such as: 

  • emotional development
  • physical development (fine and gross motor skills)
  • social development
  • cognitive development

Therapy providers support children and the families they are a part of through interventions based in play, as play is the primary occupation of the child. It’s through play that development of underlying skills are refined and developed so that they can support functional tasks. 

Likewise, daily activities done in the natural environment require these underlying skill areas. Professionals can work with the child in the therapy setting, but a main role of the OT practitioner is to empower the child and family unit to thrive on their own in their home environment, or the natural setting.

No matter what the diagnosis, OTs support various goals. Some diagnoses that can be supported in occupational therapy at home include: 

  • Autism
  • Sensory processing disorders and sensory processing challenges
  • Developmental delay
  • Down syndrome and other genetic disorders
  • Cerebral palsy and other physical mobilitydiagnoses
  • Coordination challenges
  • Motor skill delays or developmental disorders

Occupational therapy services are not limited to these diagnoses. OT at home can support any individual struggling in the home or community to complete daily activities.

Therapy providers do this through caregiver education, OT home programs, and consultancy including coaching of skills, support services, and checking in on struggles.

Occupational Therapy at Home and Carryover of Skills

If there’s one thing that is for certain, it’s that occupational therapists love to see carryover. We love to encourage functioning and independence with personal goals across environments. It’s through occupational therapy home programs that we encourage families, parents, and teachers to get involved with a child’s goals so they can accomplish skills at home, in the classroom, and community.

I wanted to put together some activities that OTs can add to home programs that build skills. Use these as part of OT recommendations in occupational therapy teletherapy sessions, or in home programming as a result of changes in our current public health situations. Whatever your situation is, here are some activity recommendations that promote movement, learning through play, and help to keep the kids off screens.

Use these occupational therapy home programs for setting up OT programs at home, for kids on homeschool, teletherapy activities, and occupational therapy recommendations for home. Perfect for carryover of OT activities.

Occupational therapy home programs for movement

So…many of us are dealing with the uncertainties of coronavirus and the possibility to be sent home from wor. School based OTs who are contracted into a school district may even be out of work if and when school students are sent home to learn from home. They may see the need to send home activity plans with children who will be stuck indoors. Other therapists are working within the available technology systems that are in place and can work with children remotely or via teletherapy. In each of these cases, there is a need for therapist-recommended activities that require items that are probably in the homes of most parents.

Use these activities to encourage play and movement. Encourage playing together as families. These activities have therapeutic benefits, but they are also great for family time, too.

Home Occupational therapy suggestions

These monthly movement activities use a lot of items found around the home.

Here are fine motor and coordination activities using a simple deck of playing cards.

Here are movement, dexterity, and strengthening activities using craft pom poms (or cotton balls work really well, too.)

Here are activities with paper clips to encourage coordination, visual motor skills, perception, and dexterity.

Here are sensory diet activities for the backyard.

Here are 31 ways to learn through movement and play. These strategies are perfect for learning at home or homeschooling.

Playdough is a powerful tool that can be added to home therapy programs! Here is a giant list of activities using play dough.

To encourage gross motor movement, core strengthening, and heavy work for sensory needs, try these indoor recess activities. They work at home, too!

Looking for home programming and OT home activities? These resources are full of ideas:

Fine Motor Activities

Visual Motor Activities

Indoor Play Ideas

Cooking with Kids

Sensory Play

Executive Functioning Activities

Handwriting Activities

Calming Heavy Work Activities

“Push In” Therapy at Home– Combine OT interventions with learning at home using these movement-based, goal oriented activities that can be incorporated into learning, math, reading, etc.

OT at Home…Play Games!

A lot of times, families have board games in the home that they haven’t played with in a while. Family time games like the ones in the posts below can build essential skills that might be addressed in therapy, too. Use time spent at home to play games and work on therapy goals at the same time. Here are some game suggestions:

These Games to Improve strategy and planning are fun to play and better for the brain!

Here are more games to improve executive functioning skills.

Games that improve pencil grasp build fine motor skills, but don’t seem like “work”. Do you have any of these fine motor games in your game closet?

Visual Tracking Games are fun ways to work on an essential visual processing skill…visual tracking! This skill is needed for visual attention, reading, writing, and so much more.

Raid the game closet and use some items you have around the house to Build Math Skills with Games.

In fact, there is a lot of learning that happens with board games. Here is how you can learn with games you already own.

These are games and toys that build skills in reluctant writers.

Build wrist stability for improved precision and strength in the hands with these games and toys to improve wrist stability.

Looking for more ways to keep the kids busy at home while working on developing skills? Run a search through the search bar above!

How can I help my child with occupational therapy at home

How can I help my child with occupational therapy at home?

If working on developmental areas is needed, you can do activities to support specific areas, using everyday play. Many times, OT practitioners will work with families to design an individualized home OT program that supports specific needs for each child. 

Having a specialized OT home program is important because occupational therapists and OTAs can come up with activities that target several areas of development at once, including self-regulation, social emotional development, for example. Or, they may offer ideas to integrate visual motor skills while targeting specific aspects of visual perception. Another example is OT activities that offer calming heavy work input while supporting movement needs (a combination of proprioceptive input and vestibular input) while providing therapy activities that do not over-stimulate the vision and vestibular system. 

If you want to add activities to the home that do offer motor skill and precision input for strengthening fine motor skills, some play activities can do this. 

These materials are often found in many homes, and occupational therapy providers use these items because they are so prevalent in homes, making the activities easily carried over at home. Try using these materials in occupational therapy at home interventions:

  • Chalk
  • Beads
  • Swinging on swings or playing at playgrounds
  • Jumping on a trampoline
  • Playing in a sand box
  • Turning coins on a table or dropping coins in a piggy bank
  • Playing with tweezers to pick up beads or crumbled paper or small objects
  • Making a sensory tray with shaving cream
  • Playing with various textures
  • Rolling dice
  • Offering sensory input by jumping on couch cushions or hopping on pillows
  • Making a noodle necklace
  • Coloring
  • Playing with play dough
  • Tearing a piece of paper
  • Talking about emotions
  • Sorting buttons
  • Picking up beans one at a time

These simple activities can be incorporated into the daily routine to support development through play.

Occupational Therapy Home Programs

Occupational therapy home programs are a vital part of the therapeutic process and crucial to a child’s success in therapy. As we know, most children attend therapy sessions once or twice a week, and following through outside of the therapeutic setting is important to both the child and the family. It is essential that you do your best to blend therapy home programs into the already busy schedules and routines of families to ensure compliance and habituate follow-through at home. 

Most therapists love providing families with targeted activities or exercises to work on at home to continue a child’s progress toward their goals. Providing these in a fun way can be both a unique art and science in creation by a therapist and the family. Yep, it’s true, including the family in the design is both encouraging and allows for unique ownership by both the child and the family, therefore, making it more successful overall. Keep in mind that home programs can vary greatly depending on a child’s specific needs, family design, and the skill development needed. 

Sometimes families need a sensory diet for home or community use, an exercise program to advance skills in strength and endurance, a chore and/or self-care checklist for skill advancement and attainment, an activity program to facilitate targeted skill development and keep motivation with therapy, or a handwriting home program to give further practice in letter formation and handwriting legibility practice. 

Let’s take a deeper look at each home program mentioned. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t put in a lot of different choices or activities as this will oftentimes decrease compliance and increase the lack of follow-through in the home setting. Always consider doing fewer activities and/or exercises and change them out more frequently as compliance and success are achieved. Don’t load a family or child up with activities and exercises to keep it all front-end packed as this will become overwhelming and not successful in the back end. Provide a limited number with a specific focus coupled with full, open communication as the program is followed at home. 

Occupational Therapy Home Programs for Sensory Needs

Sensory diets by design provide a child-specific activity program that is scheduled into a child’s day to provide sensory activities or approaches that kids perform throughout the day to ensure they are getting the input their bodies need to assist with attention, arousal, soothing, and adaptive responses. The activities are generally chosen to target a child’s needs based on sensory integration theory. 

The best approach to a sensory diet is to provide a visual schedule for parents and children to follow as well as a worded description of ideas to further facilitate understanding and follow-through. Look at following

  • time-based activities
  • routines
  • interaction recommendations
  • environment suggestions, and
  • targeted sensory needs that include oral sensory, heavy work, and vestibular. 

Always provide contact information on each sensory diet to ensure families have what they need to consult with you about strategies and activities as well as any questions that may arise during diet implementation.

Home exercise programs provide guidelines for the overall program and each exercise should have a picture or diagram, the number of safe sets/reps, specific precautions, and a checklist for either daily, weekly, or monthly implementation with the understanding to share this checklist at end of a cycle to ensure compliance by family. 

As therapists, we often use tools for home exercises that may include therapy putty, theraband, dumbbells, hand and finger exercisers, exercise bikes, or even table-top pedal bikes. Make sure these tools are either provided to the families as part of their programming or that they can afford to purchase them outside of therapy.  A loan program can be established to provide the child with what they need for a limited time.

Sometimes, we as therapists, need to get creative in how we get the exercises into a home that are needed, so look outside the typical places for items such as in thrift stores, ask families who no longer need items and are willing to donate them to you, utilize a “donate and need” board at your clinic or schools, look on Facebook groups such as OT Trader for items, etc. 

Chore or self-care checklists are just as they sound, a list of chores or self-care actions for each day or week. Create a simplified checklist or find one online that has everything you need to copy and share. Take a look at Your Therapy Source as they have convenient and time-saving Life Skills activities, checklists and graphs for data collection in the home, school, and community making it easier to target each step and to score and record progress over time.

A daily to-do list for kids or visual schedule can support this.

Occupational Therapy at Home Activity Programs

Activity programs are intended to motivate the child (and the family) while developing essential skills that the child needs as they perform them in the home setting. This program can be completed with siblings to increase the fun and compliance as needed. The child can learn each activity during therapy and then follow through occurs at home after the therapist reviews the program with the parent(s). 

A fun way to do this is to have the child demonstrate each activity during therapy with a parent present as this builds confidence and full engagement by the child. 

Other than a written activity program with pictures, you can also create a fine motor toolbox with different activities inside that can be used at home for a few weeks.

On our blog posts on occupational therapy kits, you’ll find specific ideas and images for how to set up an OT kit at home.

Here is a picture of some kits, which I share with families and use during therapy sessions:

Occupational therapy kits for home OT.

I try to keep them small with 5-6 activities in each box and each box is designed to address a child’s specific needs. This means that I often switch activities around in the boxes so I must maintain a checklist of what each child has already worked on so that I can keep the boxes new and fresh.

Frankly, I found this design to be more successful than the larger Magic 20 Box that I worked with colleagues to create several years back.

The 20 items in the box tended to become overwhelming to children and families and more often than not, they ended up wanting to do a select few that they found fun and engaging.  My personal experience has been finding families and children are more compliant with smaller boxes and fewer activities. 

I also enjoy using my monthly game boards for fine and gross motor activities at home as it triggers high interest and enjoyment for both my clients and their families.

Occupational Therapy at Home: Handwriting

Handwriting home programs are designed to have children practice the important skills they have learned during therapy as a carryover into a different setting.  Handwriting is a complex skill and practice in meaningful and natural ways is most useful in developing skills.

You can also use it as an educational tool for families too.  My handwriting home programs are written in a way that sets the scene for successful handwriting practice in the home easing tension and anxiety for increased follow-through and overall compliance. 

Some ways to support handwriting interventions for occupational therapy at home include:

With so many options around for creating and designing a child-specific home program, any child and family can benefit from your skilled OT home program. We all know that without regular practice and intervention, a child can regress in their skills and it can take a very long time to regain the skills they once had. So, go get some quick inspiration here in this blog post and then go and help those kiddos on your caseload build the important skills they need to be successful in their daily lives. Oh, and don’t forget, you’re empowering those families to proceed on and power through to progress for their child, that’s what you do! 

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

The OT Toolbox Fine Motor Kits are a great resource for occupational therapy at home!

Use these Fine Motor Kits for hands-on activity kits to develop fine motor skills, strength, dexterity, and manipulation. Kids LOVE these fine motor kits for the motivating activities. Therapists love them because it’s fresh, fun ways to work on pinch, grip, manipulation skills, and much more. Try some of these themed therapy kits:

Rainbow Crafts

rainbow crafts

Before we know it, March will be here and all of the rainbow crafts and activities will be dominating social media. Rainbow craft ideas are a fun kids craft with a rainbow theme. So, let’s begin a blog post that will give you some fun rainbow craft ideas now that will address multiple skill areas as well as celebrate the season and the holiday! Use these craft ideas along with our rainbow activities for themed fun.

Just know that this post of rainbow crafts cannot only be used for the season and the holiday but if you have a weather theme that you need some unique ideas for, then this round-up will help!  

rainbow crafts

Rainbow Crafts

Here in this post, you will find a colorful collection of paper, cardboard, and food items that will help you jazz up your rainbow craft approach. Not only do these craft activities incorporate skill development, but they also provide an end product that can be displayed or sent home with children and families to enjoy. 

Some can even result in an end product that can be enjoyed right away – like some rainbow food crafts! Delicious!

Now, read on and take a look at some colorful crafts that children of many ages can participate in making either during therapy, in the classroom, or at home. Whether you are looking for rainbow crafts for toddlers, preschoolers, or older children, you’ll find colorful ideas for all ages.

We’ve selected ideas that support development of several areas through the crafting process. Areas that are supported with these rainbow craft ideas include:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Hand strength (pinch, grasp, arch development)
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Scissor skills
  • Tactile challenges

To get started with crafting DIY rainbow craft projects, gather a variety of different materials and crafting supplies. These materials are great for making rainbows…

  • Colorful tissue paper
  • Markers (great for coloring, making DIY colored salt, DIY watercolors, etc.)
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Paper plates
  • Construction paper in a variety of colors
  • Food coloring
  • Ribbons
  • Marshmallows (if you want to make an edible rainbow)

Let’s get started with the easy rainbow crafts!

rainbow crafts

Rainbow Crafts for Occupational Therapy

While we state that these rainbow activities are designed for occupational therapy, they are actually a simple and fun way for kids of all ages to build skills in the areas mentioned above. 

Paper Rainbows- 

A cut and paste rainbow craft is easy to set up and make while building scissor skills. Or, ask young learners to tear bits of paper or tissue paper. Use a few materials:

  • Construction paper or tissue paper cut into strips
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Show the child how to snip the paper strips into small squares. They can also just tear off a small piece. Tearing paper is a great tool for developing fine motor skills.

A torn paper rainbow craft that can be performed with scissor cutting or paper tearing as the main hand actions needed to create it. It’s a craft that can be completed by younger kiddos or by slightly older kiddos as the skills needed can be varied depending on the approach. 

A more advanced version of a paper rainbow craft is using colored construction paper with different sized curves. Children can cut the curves from the edge of the pieces of paper and then layer the curved pieces on top of one another. This activity works on cutting skills as children cut different sizes of half-circle shapes. It provides the opportunity for children to think about the sizing and positioning of the shapes by stacking them according to size – largest to smallest – to create the rainbow.

Paper Plate Rainbow-

To mae a colorful paper plate rainbow, you need just a few items:

  • Paper plate cut in half
  • Cotton balls
  • Construction paper in each color of the rainbow
  • Glue

To make a paper plate rainbow:

  1. Cut a paper plate in half.
  2. Glue cotton balls to the paper plate.
  3. Cut a one inch strip of paper from each color of construction paper.
  4. Add glue to one end of each strip of paper.
  5. Glue the paper strips in rainbow order starting at the left side of the straight edge of the paper plate.

This paper plate rainbow craft can be completed by younger kiddos and you can be creative in having kiddos make the rainbow-colored ‘beams’ by having them tear strips of paper versus cutting them. It is a little more involved to tear, so if kiddos are unable to tear then just simply cut. 

How about a new spin on the rainbow paper craft by creating a Rainbow Happiness Craft? This is a combination of two paper crafts mentioned above, but the child will write on the rainbow beams things like happy thoughts and positive remarks. Their statements could be about what they like to do that makes them happy or could be recalling some happy memories.

Rainbow Templates-

Using a printable rainbow is an easy way to work on the order of the rainbow by putting items into rainbow order. Use the templates to make a Fruit Loop Rainbow craft, too!

In The OT Toolbox membership, we have a Rainbow template for Q-Tip painting. It’s a fun printable that has children use q-tips dipped into rainbow paint colors to fill in the dots on the rainbow pattern. This is the perfect craft to encourage a pincer grasp or tripod grasp and to provide an opportunity to target eye-hand coordination for q-tip placement within the dots. 

We have a free Rainbow Template Printable here that you can just print and color to make it a simple craft for just about any age or if you are working on pencil control, scissor skills, eye-hand coordination, or direction following, this template can address all of those skill areas too! 

We know there are many benefits to making paper chains with kids. A Rainbow Paper Chain Craft includes the creation of paper chains that are linked together to create the beams of a rainbow cloud. The strips can already be cut or you can have the child cut the strips themselves, but either way, it addresses fine motor skills while creating and linking the paper chain links so pasting skills are involved too! 

Weave a Rainbow- 

Here is a unique approach to a paper plate rainbow that involves Rainbow Weaving which is simply the use of a paper plate and colored pipe cleaners to create the rainbow pattern, but you’ll also need a crayon to color the plate and some Styrofoam pieces or cotton balls to create the cloud formation. This is probably a craft for some older kiddos due to the fine motor skill and sequencing skills needed to weave the pipe cleaners. Weaving activities are great for building many skills so this is a great tool for occupational therapy.

Rainbow Sun Catcher-

Suncatcher crafts are another great strategy for developing skills. This craft is definitely a favorite, it’s called the Rainbow Pony Bead Prism Suncatcher which is created by stringing transparent pony beads onto a fishing line that is attached to a plastic sewing needle. So, in a way, it makes the craft activity kind of like a functional task too – sewing. 

This Yarn Wrapped Rainbow Craft are OT favorites as they involve the use of multiple hand skills to create, but the end product has its own unique look that doesn’t make it good or bad or right or wrong, just a rainbow. If needed, you can snip along the edges of the cardboard rainbow and it will provide a latching point for yarn as it is wrapped. 

Toilet Paper Tube Rainbow-

Now, this is another unique rainbow craft called Rainbow Binoculars where you recycle either toilet paper or paper towel cardboard rolls and wrap them with strips of rainbow-colored paper to create the binoculars. Take a look at this unique craft by clicking on the link and you’ll see what I mean. Just know that after these are created, you can then use them to play a fun I Spy game around the room.   

Another fun activity is our rainbow cardboard tube. Use a paper towel roll or a toilet paper tube to make a mini rainbow, perfect for small world pretend play or just painting a rainbow!

Rainbow Bracelet crafts-

This is a wearable Rainbow Bracelet Craft where children need to be able to string pony beads onto pipe cleaners and then twist them together to create a colorful wearable product! This one is super for addressing fine motor and bilateral coordination skills. 

Never tried this one before, but it looks interesting as it’s a food product that is cut and then strung onto a plastic lace to create a Rainbow Necklace. I’m guessing the colorful Twizzler licorice sticks will make it a real motivator for children. 

This one is a Rainbow Mobile Craft that is a little more involved and time-consuming, but the result is a super colorful and creative use of pasta pieces turned into a rainbow of color.  This craft can be expanded into days-long crafting if you include the dying of pasta pieces and then the use of pasta to string and create the mobile. With a tying opportunity, it can be used with older kiddos too. Fun! 

Are you working on food exploration or tolerance with younger kiddos or maybe just kitchen tool use with older kiddos? This craft idea addresses both and it’s YUMMY!  It’s a Rainbow Fruit Pizza! The fruit included is sliced strawberries, sliced kiwi, blueberries, blackberries, and mandarin oranges. Or if you don’t want to try fruit, how about a Rainbow Snack

We hope you have enjoyed all the crafts included in this rainbow round-up of ideas and we hope that you have found some unique and never-before-tried crafts that will become some of your colorful favorites! 

Regina Allen

Regina Parsons-Allen is a school-based certified occupational therapy assistant. She has a pediatrics practice area of emphasis from the NBCOT. She graduated from the OTA program at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, North Carolina with an A.A.S degree in occupational therapy assistant. She has been practicing occupational therapy in the same school district for 20 years. She loves her children, husband, OT, working with children and teaching Sunday school. She is passionate about engaging, empowering, and enabling children to reach their maximum potential in ALL of their occupations as well assuring them that God loves them!

Colors Handwriting Kit

Rainbow Handwriting Kit– This resource pack includes handwriting sheets, write the room cards, color worksheets, visual motor activities, and so much more. The handwriting kit includes:

  • Write the Room, Color Names: Lowercase Letters
  • Write the Room, Color Names: Uppercase Letters
  • Write the Room, Color Names: Cursive Writing
  • Copy/Draw/Color/Cut Color Worksheets
  • Colors Roll & Write Page
  • Color Names Letter Size Puzzle Pages
  • Flip and Fill A-Z Letter Pages
  • Colors Pre-Writing Lines Pencil Control Mazes
  • This handwriting kit now includes a bonus pack of pencil control worksheets, 1-10 fine motor clip cards, visual discrimination maze for directionality, handwriting sheets, and working memory/direction following sheet! Valued at $5, this bonus kit triples the goal areas you can work on in each therapy session or home program.

Click here to get your copy of the Colors Handwriting Kit.

Visual Closure

Visual Closure

It’s possible that you’ve heard the term visual closure before as this is a common visual skill that impacts learning, reading, and math skills. But did you know that visual processing skills also impact fine motor skills. Occupational 

therapists assess and treat visual skills as one of the underlying contributors to functional deficits. Visual closure is just one of those visual perceptual skills that impact everyday tasks. 

In this post will we discuss how visual closure is utilized in daily life, red flags for dysfunction, and some great activities to develop this skill.

Visual Closure

What is Visual Closure

Visual closure refers to the brain’s ability to complete a picture or visual representation using incomplete information. This is a visual perceptual skill and a component of visual processing that enables us to visually fill in the blank with missing information. 

This visual perceptual skill allows us to see part of an object and visualize in our “mind’s eye” to determine the whole object. When we see part of an item, we use visual closure to know what the whole item is. This skill requires the cognitive process of problem solving to identify items.

This visual perceptual skill is the one used to locate and recognize items in a hidden picture puzzle. In written work, we use visual closure to recognize parts of words and letters when reading and copying work.

Visual Closure is defined as the ability of the eyes to visualize a complete image or object when only a portion is seen. An individual can see just part of a letter or number when reading and recognize how to write that figure. We can read a word or sentence without focusing on each letter and how it is made.  

Visual Closure is an essential skill for many tasks. It is a skill that enables us to recognize a friend when it their face is partially covered by a scarf. It allows us to identify a road sign that is hidden by tree branches. It allows us to read, write, spell, complete math, and manage many other daily tasks.

Visual Closure enables us to look at an incomplete form and abstractly fill in the missing details in order to identify the form or shape. The skill allows us to comprehend portions of visual information without actively assessing each detail in isolation. This skill is one that utilizes abstract problem-solving skills.

Visual closure is a skill we use all day long. 

From learning, to driving, to getting dressed, we use this aspect of visual perception in discerning between both familiar items and unfamiliar objects in every environment.

Visual closure takes into consideration spatial relationships, orientation in space, and knowledge about similar objects. In this way, both visual memory and working memory plays a role in recognizing a familiar item previously filed away in the brain’s knowledge. 

Perceptual skills like vision closure allow us to function in day to day tasks, use safety awareness, and complete everyday activities through visual motor integration.

Visual perception is just one of many functions of the body that OT practitioners can address in therapy to improve quality of life. 

Examples of Visual Closure

We are able to visually close an incomplete image when we see part of an item partially obscured by other items in the environment.

Some examples of visual closure include:

  • Recognizing that a complete object is in front of us even when part of it is covered up
  • Identifying a stop sign even when it’s partially obscured by a tree branch
  • Knowing that a complete fork is in the tray of utensils when we see only a portion of the fork
  • Realizing the approximate size of objects when part of it is blocked from our vision
  • Using the ability to make inferences about an object’s size even when portions are blocked from our line of sight
  • Realizing the complete whole of an object is still there even when obscured, for example: knowing a window continues behind a curtain.
  • Reading a word with fluency and effiencey, as well as reading comprehension (more on all of these areas below)
  • Needed skill for spelling and sight word recognition
  • Required to help figure out a shape or form that is partially hidden
  • Needed to recognize an object when only a portion is visible
  • Necessary skill for identifying spelling mistakes or incorrect information in written work
  • Required to visually locate partially hidden objects in a busy background
  • Required skill for reading words or recognizing words that are partially visible

Visual perception involves a complex set of skills, including one that we will highlight here: visual closure. This important cognitive ability involves being able to understand and interpret incomplete or abstract visual information. In other words, it’s the ability to see an object or figure in your mind’s eye when only a part of it is actually visible. Pretty cool, right?

WHY IS Vision CLOSURE USEFUL?

Visual closure is a type of visual perception skill that allows you to understand the whole shape of an object, even if part of it is hidden. 

For example, we use this skill to recognize a letter of the alphabet when part of it is erased. Many students would recognize a visual closure worksheet without knowing it – they often look like one half of a familiar shape, and the student must draw the remaining half to create the whole the shape. 

They may also use this skill during a color-by-number worksheet, where they can recognize an image appear before it is even complete! 

This is an important skill as it increases our ability to understand the world and adapt to changes. Having strong vision skills also increases your overall visual cognitive performance, leading higher reading and writing abilities. It also sets you up for success for finding lost keys or quickly locating a spice in the cabinet. 

Visual Closure and Reading

When it comes to vision, there is a lot that goes into reading and writing. Understanding the visual differences between letters, visually connecting the form of a letter to a sound, and stringing single letters into words (and then sentences) involves coordination of visual processing and multiple skill areas. When a child picks up a pencil to write the daily homework assignments into a tracker or completes a math page, the visual processing system is going into overdrive with scanning, visual tracking, visual motor integration, and visual perceptual skill work.

In the classroom, we often times run into many students who struggle with reading. Parents may notice a difficulty with reading during homework or other reading tasks. When a child struggles with keeping their place when reading a line of text, has difficulty recognizing words they should know, struggles with reading fluency or reading comprehension, a visual processing issue may be at the center of the struggle.

One necessary foundation skill needed for reading fluency is visual closure. While it may not seem like the most predictable culprit of the visual perceptual skills that impact reading, vision closure certainly is at play.

Visual closure is a skill used when reading. These visual skills are used to visually complete the word in the mind’s eye without reading each letter. This is similar to word prediction technology. The mind is able to predict the word based on letters, and context. This enable reading fluency as well as reading comprehension.

Visual closure is one skill that allows us to recognize words without focusing on each individual letter within a word. It allows us to glance at a sight word and read the word quickly. It enables us to comprehend a reading passage with fluency and efficiency as we visualize and discern words. It allows us to read and discern words that have similar beginnings or endings.

When a child looks at words and sentences, they typically are able to fill in missing parts of information. They can predict what is coming when reading sentences, copy words if they don’t see the whole word, solve puzzles, and fill in worksheets. When visual closure and predicting information or self-correcting missing information is difficult, kids don’t recognize errors in reading, writing, and math.

Similarly, visual closure enables us to identify a word without perceiving each specific part of the letters which make up a word. It is easy to see how a child who struggles with this visual perceptual skill can labor at reading!

VISUAL CLOSURE RED FLAGS

How do I know if there is an issue with my visual closure abilities? There are signs that can indicate visual closure problems in children.

These are common red flags associated with poor visual closure in kids:

Children with difficulties in visual closure may have trouble completing mazes, puzzles, or worksheets.  They might have difficulty identifying items that are partially obscured by other items, such as finding a serving spoon or a matching sock hidden in a draw full of items.  They might have difficulty with spelling or math tasks or concepts.

  • Difficulty recognizing letters or reading in certain fonts
  • Often poorly forms letters while writing 
  • Not being able to recognize a word that is partially hidden
  • Difficulty completing words with missing letters
  • Requires extra time to read because they must sound out each letter in a word rather than seeing the whole word
  • Unable to find an object when it is partially covered (ex: milk in the fridge or a shirt in a drawer)
  • May find puzzles too challenging 
  • Figuring out how to put together toys with multiple parts
  • Difficulty interpreting visual information, such as maps or diagrams

Please note that this is list not exhaustive, nor does it by any means diagnose someone with visual or cognitive deficits. It is here it give you an idea of what it may look like or feel like to have impaired visual closure understanding.  

Since we know that various visual perception skills match these red flags, we have the perfect resource for you: this Visual Closure Workbook! This workbook gives an in-depth look at a very specific aspect of visual perception, it gives ample ways to identify it, and provides various levels of interventions with fun themes to go along. 

Visual Closure ACTIVITIES & GAMES

The good news is that there are tons of fun ways to develop visual closure skills! Below you can find activities, games, books, and activities you can do with objects at home to build visual skills. 

Books to Develop Visual Closure

Here are a few easy activities that you can do at home to help:

Puzzles: Jigsaw Puzzles are a great way to work on this skill, as they require children to use their visual and spatial awareness skills to figure out how the pieces fit together. Start with simple puzzles and gradually increase the difficulty as your child improves.

Picture Matching: Cut out a set of pictures and have your child match the incomplete pictures to the complete ones. For example, you can cut out a picture of a house, leaving only the roof and part of the walls visible. Your child’s job is to find the matching picture of the whole house.

Printable Worksheets: Visual Closure worksheets can be a tool to support development of this visual processing skill. We love creating resources that build this area of development in various themes. We have fun downloads here on the website that targets visual closure.

Hidden Objects: Provide your child with a few objects and something like a blanket to cover parts of them. Have them use their visual closure skills to figure out what’s missing or covered up.

Drawing: Encourage your child to draw from memory. For example, you can show them a picture for a few seconds, then have them close their eyes and draw what they remember. This activity helps to develop their visual closure skills, as well as their memory and creativity.

Children with strong visual closure skills are better able to complete puzzles, read and write, and interpret their surroundings. On the other hand, children who struggle with vision closure may have difficulty with these tasks and may require extra support and intervention.

Dot to Dot Activities- Completing a connect the dot activity is a great way to develop visual closure skills by working on seeing the bigger picture. Best of all, these visual perception activities support development of other underlying areas, too: visual figure ground, visual scanning, form constancy, and the ability to complete a partial picture. 

If you notice your child struggling with this skill, consider seeking out the help of an occupational therapist. With the right support and activities, your child can develop their visual closure skills and improve their overall functioning.

Sydney Thorson, OTR/L, is a new occupational therapist working in school-based therapy. Her
background is in Human Development and Family Studies, and she is passionate about
providing individualized and meaningful treatment for each child and their family. Sydney is also
a children’s author and illustrator and is always working on new and exciting projects.

The Visual Closure Workbook is a 65 page digital file designed to impact visual perceptual skills for reading comprehension and efficiency, and the ability to visualize a complete image or feature when given incomplete or partial information. With functional visual closure skills, we are able to determine

This visual perceptual skill resource includes:

  • Information on visual processing and visual closure
  • Tips and tools to address visual closure needs
  • A thorough explanation of visual closure and what problems in this area look like in everyday tasks
  • Reproducible worksheets and activity lists
  • Activities to grade visual perceptual skills in hands-on activities
  • 3 levels of worksheet pages in a variety of themes