The OT Toolbox: Visual Motor Skills

We have shared quite a few posts relating to vision and the integration of what the eyes see with motor movements.  On this page, you will find a huge variety of visual motor activities for kids.  Visual motor skills are needed for coordinating the hands, legs, and the rest of the body's movements with what the eyes perceive.  There is more that plays into the integration of visual motor skills into what we do and how we use our hands in activities. Read on to find out more about how visual perception, eye-hand coordination, and visual processing skills play a part in the overarching visual motor skill development so we can perceive and process visual information and use that information with motor skills to manipulate and move objects in tasks and activities.

Visual Motor Skills



Looking for easy and fun ways to work on visual motor skills? Kids will love to work on fine motor activities that improve eye-hand coordination and the visual motor skills needed for tasks like handwriting.


What are Visual Motor Skills?


Visual Motor Skills enable an individual to process information around them. The ability to observe, recognize, and use visual information about forms, shapes, figures, and objects makes up our visual motor abilities. Visual motor skills include a coordination of visual information that is perceived and processed with motor skills, including fine motor, gross motor, and sensory motor.

When a child performs activities involving motor tasks, they are using visual motor skills. 


Visual motor skills are made up of several areas:

1. Visual Processing Skills- These skills include how the eyes move and collect information. These are visual skills that take in and use the information in order to process that input. Visual skills include visual tracking, convergence, saccades, visual fixation, and visual attention. A component of visual processing includes visual efficiency. This refers to the effective use of that visual information. 

2. Visual Perceptual Skills- Visual perception is our ability to make sense of what we see. Visual perceptual skills are essential for everything from navigating our world to reading, writing, and manipulating items. Visual perception is made up of a complex combination of various skills. Visual perceptual skills include visual memory, visual closure, form constancy, visual spatial relations, visual discrimination, visual attention, visual sequential memory, and visual figure ground.

3. Eye-Hand Coordination- Using the visual input effectively and efficiently with the hands allows us to manipulate and manage objects and items. This coordinated motor skill requires fine motor skill development. These motor skills allow us to collect visual information and use it in a motor action. Eye-hand coordination requires fine motor dexterity, strength, shoulder stability, core stability, etc. Examples of eye-hand coordination include catching a ball, manipulating pegs into a pegboard, lacing a lacing card, etc. Visual motor skills both require and utilize eye-hand coordination, however the overarching visual motor skills utilize additional components and are a higher level skill.


Red flags for visual motor skill difficulties include:


Letter reversal

Poor line awareness in handwriting

Poor margin use in written work

Difficulty copying written work

Trouble recognizing patterns and completing hands-on math problems

Difficulty catching or kicking a ball

Trouble with movement games like hopscotch.

Clumsiness

Difficulty with sports

Difficulty drawing and copying pictures or shapes

Difficulty copying block forms

Difficulty with puzzles

Poor pencil control when writing

Difficulty keeping place when reading and writing

Difficulty perceiving and copying shapes

Visual Motor Skills are made up of many areas related to vision and the ability to perceive sight with relation to movement of the hands and body in functional tasks.  

What if you suspect vision problems? 

When vision problems are suspected after a screening by the OT, it is best practice to refer the family to a developmental optometrist.

A developmental optometrist will complete a full evaluation and determine the need for corrective lenses, vision therapy or a home program to address vision concerns.

As occupational therapists, it is imperative that we rule out vision problems before treating handwriting or delays in visual motor integration, to ensure the best possible trajectory of development and success for the child.

Occupational Therapy Vision Screening Tool

Occupational Therapists screen for visual problems in order to determine how they may impact functional tasks. Visual screening can occur in the classroom setting, in inpatient settings, in outpatient therapy, and in early intervention or home care. 

This visual screening tool was created by an occupational therapist and provides information on visual terms, frequently asked questions regarding visual problems, a variety of visual screening techniques, and other tools that therapists will find valuable in visual screenings. 

This is a digital file. Upon purchase, you will be able to download the 10 page file and print off to use over and over again in vision screenings and in educating therapists, teachers, parents, and other child advocates or caregivers.




Visual perceptual skills make up an important component of visual motor skills. For children, these abilities are necessary for so many things...from self-care to fine motor skills, to gross motor skills...all parts of a child's development require visual perception.  There are many pieces to the giant term of "visual perception".  

There are many resources related to visual perceptual skills here on The OT Toolbox: 


Use these toys and tools to help kids develop and improve visual perception needed for handwriting, reading, and writing.  Use these strategies to address visual perception needs for better handwriting. Work on handwriting skills using tangrams to address the visual perception skills needed for written work.What is visual memory and why is it necessary for development of functional skills like handwriting and reading? Tips and activities from to work on visual memory in kids and adults.

Toys and Tools to Improve Visual Perception

Visual Perception and Handwriting

Use Tangrams to Improve Visual Perception in Handwriting

What is Visual Memory? 

5 easy ways to work on visual perceptual skills with markers.How to use tangrams to improve visual perception skills needed for reading, writing, and functional skills. Use this space visual perception puzzle to work on visual motor and visual perceptual skills needed for handwriting, reading, and math.Flower theme free visual perception worksheet to help kids work on visual perceptual skills like visual discrimination, visual memory, visual attention, and pencil control needed for handwriting.

Improve Visual Perception with Markers

Use Tangrams to Improve Visual Perception



Search "Visual Perception" or individual visual perceptual skills in the search bar at the top of this website for more activities.

Kids rely on their development of visual perceptual skills for so many functional tasks.  From handwriting to self-care, visual motor skills are important!  This blog has so many ideas for activities to work on visual motor and eye hand coordination with kids!

When it comes to vision, there is so much to learn!  Start by checking out Visual Motor Integration developmental milestones for age-appropriate skills that children typically master from age 0-5.


Activities to help develop visual motor integration:

The activities below are designed to develop the ability to integrate and coordinate visual input with motor skills.  I am breaking down the activities into different areas.  Click on the main links to find even more explanation of each area. 

Eye-Hand Coordination Activity for Kids

Hand-eye coordination is using the information received through the vision system to coordinate the hands with control, in order to complete a task, such as handwriting or catching a ball.



 Visual motor integration activities using paper visual processing and visual efficiency problems


 The Floor is Lava gameKids will love this rainbow visual motor activity to address the skills needed for handwriting.Kids can work on the skills needed for handwriting with this visual motor letter rainbow.Visual scanning and visual motor color matching activity for kids






Address visual motor integration in written work by improving visual perception using block copying skills with KORXX cork blocks.What is Visual Motor Integration?  This blog has a lot of information on visual motor integration developmental milestones and activities for kids.Visual Scanning Activity for fine motor skills and visual scanning in so many functional tasks like reading, word searches, puzzles. This visual motor activity creates a fidget toy to help sensory seekers with fidgeting, too.













Toddler ping pong activity

Play Dough noodle color match

Feather Beading

Visual scanning is essential for handwriting skills, puzzles, word searches, mazes, and many many functional tasks.  Scanning a room for a missing sock may be difficult if a child demonstrates difficulty with visual scanning.









Visual Spatial Relations is organizing the body in relation to objects or spatial awareness.  This is an important part of handwriting.  Spacing pieces of a puzzle amongst the others and writing in relation to the lines is one way to work on this skill.


Visual Discrimination is determining differences in color, form, size, shape. 


Visual Closure is the ability to fill in parts of a form in the mind's eye to determine shape or a whole object.  


Visual Figure Ground is the ability to locate objects within a cluttered area (think "I Spy").  Finding a red square among the pile of foam pieces is one fun way to work on this area of visual perception.



These visual motor activities are fun ways to help kids develop eye-hand coordination and visual motor skills needed for so many functional tasks.

Need more help? 
If you think your child or student might have some of these difficulties that lead to problems with handwriting, it can be quite beneficial to speak to an Occupational Therapist. 

There are many different signs of visual processing disorder that can be spotted in the classroom or in the homeschool dining room that might signify a potential visual processing disorder. I have created a checklist that will help to guide the plan for students with visual processing difficulties presented in written work and classroom tasks. 

Grab your digital copy for $1.99 and print off this checklist to pass on to Occupational Therapists as part of a classroom screening, share with parents, or use when presenting information to physicians.

This checklist is not to be used as therapy or in diagnosis of visual processing disorders, but only as an informational tool. 

Get your copy and use it in the classroom, clinic, and home.

Visual processing and handwriting checklist for school and home to help with visual processing disorders