Visual Perception Toys

visual perception toys

Let’s talk visual perception toys. These games, toys, and play are designed to promote visual perceptual skills: a complex combination of various visual processing skills. These visual perceptual skills are necessary together and in coordination with one another in order for use to see information. Occupational therapy toys that visual information to create responses support functional abilities like movement or processing.

Visual perception Toys

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. .

Here is more information about strategies to address visual perceptual skills and handwriting.

Use these visual perception toys to help kids develop and improve visual perceptual skills needed for handwriting, reading, and writing.


What are Visual Perceptual Skills?

  This post contains affiliate links.   

Visual Perceptual Skills and how they are used to complete tasks like reading, writing, manipulating items, and functioning in everyday tasks:

Visual Memory– This is one’s ability to store visual information in short term memory.  This skill allows us to recall visual information.  When completing hidden picture puzzles, kids visually store images of items they are looking for when scanning to locate a specific shape or image.  This skill is necessary for handwriting tasks when copying information from a source, such as lists of words, homework lists, and copying sentences.   

Visual Closure– 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.  Visual Closure is 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.  

Form Constancy– This skill allows us to visually recognize objects no matter their orientation.  When completing a hidden picture puzzle, children can recognize the missing object whether it is upside down or sideways.  In handwriting skills, we use this ability to read and know letters and numbers no matter which direction we see them.   

Visual Spatial Relationships- This visual perceptual skill allows us to recognize and understand the relationships of objects within the environment and how they relate to one another.  

Visual Discrimination–  This visual perception skill enables us to determine slight differences in objects.  In hidden picture activities, this skill is needed to determine and locate different hidden objects.  When writing and reading, visual discrimination allows us to perceive the difference between “p” and “d”. Puzzles including ones like the wooden letter puzzle described below address visual discrimination. There are many puzzles on the market that meet different age and grade levels. Here are a variety of puzzles to consider.    

Visual Attention- This visual perceptual skill allows us to focus on the important pieces or parts of what we see. When we “take in” a scene or image in front of us, we are able to filter out the unimportant information. In this way, a student is able to focus our eyes on the teacher when she teaches. Driving down a road requires visual attention to take in the road so we can drive safely. Visual attention is important in copy work as students copy information from a Smart Board or book onto a piece of paper. As they visually scan from one point to another, they attend to the place they left off. Visual attention is also important and very needed in reading.   

Visual Sequential Memory- This visual perceptual skill is the ability to visually take in and then later recall the sequence or order of items in the correct order. This skill is important in reading and writing. Visual sequential memory is important in spelling words correctly and recognizing that words are not spelled correctly.  

Visual Figure-Ground–  This skill enables us to locate items in a busy background.  Finding hidden items in a hidden pictures puzzle works on this skill by visually scanning and identifying items within a busy scene.  In handwriting, visual figure ground is necessary for copying written work from a model and locating the place left off when shifting vision.  

Toys to Improve Visual Perception

Highlights Hidden Pictures book set– Hidden pictures are a fantastic tool for helping kids develop and strengthen visual perceptual skills like figure ground, visual attention, visual discrimination, form constancy, and visual memory. This set of hidden pictures is a nice stocking stuffer that disguises “work” as a rainy day activity.

Self-Correcting Heads & Tails Animal Match Puzzle– Puzzles like this one helps kids address visual perceptual skills like visual discrimination, figure-ground, visual attention, form constancy, and visual memory. These are easy puzzles that can be used with younger children. Add this game to an older child’s visual perceptual activities by asking them to write stories or sentences based on the puzzle pieces while sneaking in visual perceptual skill work.

Self-Correcting Counting Puzzle– This puzzle is very similar to the previous match puzzle, only it uses math concept to match. Work on visual perceptual skills with a math component.

Uppercase & Lowercase Alphabet Help kids develop skills in upper/lowercase letter matching by addressing visual discrimination, form constancy, spatial discrimination, form constancy, visual memory, and visual discrimination.

Preschool Alphabet Animal Wooden Puzzle Visual discrimination is a skill needed for noticing differences in letters like letters b and d. It’s a skill that carries over to reading and noticing the differences between words like can and car.  visual discrimination skills enable the eyes to notice differences between the orientation and parts of letters and can promote a more fluent reading ability. This skill is also important in math and spelling.  Puzzles like this one also help with form constancy, visual figure ground, among other visual perceptual skills. 

Pixy Cubes -Noticing small differences in colors and direction is an important part of visual discrimination and reading, writing, math, and spelling. These skills are important for fluency as children age and need to complete reading and math skills at faster levels appropriate for grade advances. Matching and figuring out visual puzzles like this one address skills like visual attention, visual memory, visual sequencing, spatial relationships, and visual sequencing.

Learning Resources iTrax Critical Thinking Game– This visual perceptual toy allows children to copy and build designs using blocks of different sizes. Children can develop and boost visual perceptual skills such as visual figure-ground, visual attention, visual memory, visual sequencing, and spatial relationships in order to create the mazes that they see on the cards. There are various levels of mazes, allowing for development of skills.

Learning Resources Dive into Shapes! “Sea” and Build Geometry Set– This building set is a visual perception activity that develops various visual perceptual skills needed for skills such as handwriting and reading. Using double-sided activity cards, children can develop skills such as visual figure-ground, visual attention, visual memory, visual sequencing, and spatial relationships while they copy the three-dimensional figures they see on the cards. This activity is a powerhouse therapy tool as children can strengthen fine motor skills while building with the pieces.

Tumble Trax Magnetic Marble Run– This marble run building set is a visual perception activity that develops various visual perceptual skills needed for skills such as handwriting and reading. Children can copy different levels of marble run forms using activity cards while developing skills such as visual figure-ground, visual attention, visual memory, visual sequencing, and spatial relationships. The magnetic pieces can be used on surfaces such as a refrigerator or large magnetic sheet on the wall. It’s a great tool for strengthening the upper body, developing balance and core stability, and shoulder stability while working on a vertical surface.

Code & Go Robot Mouse Activity Set– Use the activity cards to copy maze forms while developing visual perceptual skills such as visual figure-ground, visual attention, visual memory, visual sequencing, and spatial relationships. The maze is a great self-confidence booster for children as they complete mazes for the battery operated mouse. This game provides an opportunity for developing and introducing coding skills. When watching the mouse as it travels through the mouse, children can enhance visual scanning skills.

Let’s Go Code! Activity Set– This visual perception game requires children to hop, turn, step, and move through a gross motor maze of directions. Children can develop visual perceptual skills such as visual attention, visual memory, visual sequencing, and spatial relationships. Directionality is enhanced with movement activities such as this one and is much needed in tasks such as writing and identifying direction of letters and numbers. 

Spot It– This game is a fun way to help children develop and strengthen visual perceptual skills like figure ground, visual attention, visual discrimination, form constancy, and visual memory. The game is small enough to be used as a busy activity while waiting at restaurants and appointments. It’s a game that boosts skills and can be used during family game night, too.

Q-bitz Jr.– Noticing differences in colors, forms, and directions are important skills needed in visual discrimination for reading, writing, math, and spelling. These skills are important for fluency as children age and need to complete reading and math skills at faster levels appropriate for grade advances. This game is a fun way to address skills like visual attention, visual memory, visual sequencing, spatial relationships, and visual sequencing.

Wooden Pattern Blocks Set– These copying puzzle activities is a great way to develop skills like form constancy and visual discrimination. Children can look at the picture card and recreate the form using three dimensional blocks. It’s a nice way to develop visual perceptual skills like visual attention, visual memory, visual sequencing, spatial relationships, and visual sequencing.

Classic Tangoes– Similar to the tangrams above, children can view the image on a card and use tangrams to re-create the picture in this classic game. This activity develops visual perceptual skills like visual attention, visual memory, visual sequencing, spatial relationships, and visual sequencing, form constancy, and visual discrimination, all needed for handwriting and reading. Read more about using tangrams in visual perception and handwriting.

Equilibrio Game– This building activity requires players to copy forms from a puzzle book while re-creating buildings that challenge balance and gravity! When copying and building the forms, kids develop and build eye-hand coordination skills and visual perceptual skills like visual attention, visual memory, visual sequencing, spatial relationships, and visual sequencing, form constancy, and visual discrimination.

Use visual perception toys to support the development of visual perceptual skills in kids.


More Therapy Toys

Looking for more toys to address specific skill areas? Check out these occupational therapy toys:

  1. Fine Motor Toys 
  2. Gross Motor Toys 
  3. Pencil Grasp Toys 
  4. Toys for Reluctant Writers 
  5. Toys for Spatial Awareness
  6. Toys for Visual Tracking
  7. Toys for Sensory Play 
  8. Bilateral Coordination Toys 
  9. Games for Executive Functioning Skills
  10. Toys and Tools to Improve Visual Perception
  11. Toys to Help with Scissors Skills 
  12. Toys for Attention and Focus

Printable List of Toys for Visual Perception

Want a printable copy of our therapist-recommended toys to support visual perception?

As therapy professionals, we LOVE to recommend therapy toys that build skills! This toy list is done for you so you don’t need to recreate the wheel.

Your therapy caseload will love these VISUAL PERCEPTION toy recommendations. (There’s space on this handout for you to write in your own toy suggestions, to meet the client’s individual needs, too!)

Enter your email address into the form below. The OT Toolbox Member’s Club Members can access this handout inside the dashboard, under Educational Handouts. Just be sure to log into your account, first!

Visual Perception Toy Giveaway

It’s Day 9 of the Therapy Toys & Tools Giveaway!

This Pixy Cubes Game is a GREAT tool to strengthen and develop a variety of visual perceptual skills! Work on visual discriminating, visual attention, visual figure ground, form constancy, and more. Plus you can modify this activity to target the needs of players by grading the game to make it easier or harder.

For example, build a bigger game by combining several cards together. Or, cover half of the card with a post it note and ask players to create only a portion of the design to make the visual perception task easier. You can even focus on visual motor skills and handwriting by asking players to draw their design when they are completed.

And 5 winners will get a set of tools from The OT Toolbox Shop.

Plus you can still enter the other giveaway items so far. Here’s how it works:

🏆 12 days of giveaways

🏆 72 prizes

🏆Automatic entry for Member’s Club members!

🏆Toys specifically selected to help kids thrive!

Want to enter?

  • Go to the form below.
  • Enter your email address in the form.
  • That’s it!

Fine print: This giveaway is in no way affiliated with Facebook/Instagram. There are 6 winners each day. One winner gets the toy, the other 5 get OT Toolbox materials. Giveaway ends 12-6 and winners will be selected and notified 12-7-22. 🗓Open to international entries! Be sure to enter a correct email address into the form: that’s how I’ll contact winners!

Visual Perception Toy Giveaway
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and Therapist-Recommended
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VISUAL PERCPTION TOYS HANDOUT

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    Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

    Visual Tracking Tips and Tools for Treatment

    Here we are covering all things visual tracking, including what visual tracking means, how to improve visual tracking skills, and visual tracking toys to support development of this visual processing skill.

    Visual Tracking toys and tools to improve visual fixation, visual tracking, visual saccades, in handwriting, reading, and so many functional daily tasks and skills in kids.

    What is Visual Tracking

    Visual tracking is typically defined as the ability to efficiently move the eyes from left to right (or right to left, up and down, and circular motions) OR focusing on an object as it moves across a person’s visual field.

    This skill is important for almost all daily activities, including reading, writing, cutting with scissors, drawing, and playing.  According to typical development of visual processing, the ability to visually track objects emerges in children around the age of five.  

    Reading a paragraph without losing their place, copying a list of homework from the chalkboard, misalignment of vertical and horizontal numbers in math problems, confusion in interpreting written direction, mixing up left/right, persistent letter reversals…Does any of this sound familiar? It’s all visual tracking!  

    Vision and visual tracking are tasks that happen without us even realizing.  The brain and it’s jobs is an amazing thing and our eyes are moving, tracking, scanning, focusing, pursuing, and accommodating without us even realizing.     There are many ways to work on visual perception in playful and creative ways.  

    visual tracking exercises

    Visual Tracking Exercises

    Using visual tracking exercises like the one described below can be a powerful way to use eye exercises to improve vision in kids. These are the visual skills needed not for visual acuity, but rather, those unseen visual problems that impact visual processing skills.

    Visual tracking exercises can include vision therapy activities that improve areas such as visual saccades or smooth visual pursuit.

    Difficulties in Visual Tracking

    You might see problems with these tasks if a child has difficulty with visual tracking:

    • Losing place when reading.  Re-reads or skips words or lines.  
    • Omits, substitutes, repeats, or confuses similar words when reading.
    • Must use finger to keep place when reading.
    • Poor reading comprehension.
    • Short attention span.
    • Difficulty comprehending or remembering what is read.
    • Confusion with interpreting or following written directions.
    • Writing on a slat, up or down hill, spacing letters and words irregularly.
    • Confusion with left/right directions.
    • Persistent reversals of letters (b, d, p, q) when naming letters.
    • Reverses letters when writing (persistent reversals after 2nd grade.)
    • Errors when copying from a chalkboard or book to paper.
    • Misalignment of horizontal and vertical series’ of numbers in math problems.

    Also related to visual tracking and very similar while being involved in many of these problem areas, is visual scanning.  

    It is important to note that not all of these difficulties indicate a true visual tracking and or visual scanning problem.  For example, many children demonstrate poor reading comprehension and may show a short attention span while not having visual scanning problems.  

    All children should be evaluated by a pediatric physician, behavioral optometrist, and occupational therapist to determine true visual processing and visual tracking or visual scanning deficits.  These recommendations are meant to be a resource.    

    Visual Tracking toys and tools to improve visual fixation, visual tracking, visual saccades, in handwriting, reading, and so many functional daily tasks and skills in kids.

    Visual Tracking Activities

    Today, I’m sharing an easy visual tracking activity that will help kids with many functional difficulties.  This post is part of our new series where we are sharing 31 days of Occupational Therapy using mostly free or inexpensive materials.

    Today’s activity should cost you at most $2 unless you already have these items in your craft cupboard or office supplies.  Add this activity to your treatment bag for multiple activities.  Read on:

    Amazon affiliate links below.

    This Visual tracking activity is easy to set up.  Gather recycled bottle caps.  I used round dot labels from our office supplies to color the inside of each cap.  You could also use a marker or paint to color the bottle caps.  Use what you’ve got on hand to make this treatment activity free or almost free!   Next, gather matching crafting pom poms.  These can be found at the dollar store for and inexpensive treatment item.    

    visual tracking activities

    Skills Related to Visual Tracking

    It’s important to mention that there are several skills related to visual tracking. These sub-areas should be identified as a piece of the overall puzzle. Areas related to visual tracking play a role in the eyes ability to fixate on an object and follow it as it moves. These skills include:

    • Visual fixation
    • Peripheral tracking
    • Visual pursuit

    Visual Fixation Activity: (Maintaining vision on an item in the visual field) Work one eye at a time.  

    1. Have your child close one eye and place a colored crafting pom pom onto a matching bottle cap.  They need to use one hand to place the pom pom into the corresponding bottle cap and not move bottle caps around on the table.
    2. After the child has filled all of the bottle caps using one eye, repeat the task with the other eye.  
    3. Then complete the activity using both eyes.    
    4. You can also do this activity by placing the label dots on a paper. Match the bottle caps onto the dots. 

    Visual Stare Activity (the amount of time the eyes can fixate on an object without eye movements)

    1. Hold up one bottle cap on your nose.
    2. Ask your child to sit about 18 inches from you and stare at the bottle cap.  Note their eye movements as they stare.  
    3. Keep track of time that the child can stare at the target without visual saccades (eye movements).

    Peripheral Tracking Activity (visually tracking from the peripheral visual fields)

    1. Arrange the bottle caps on the table.  
    2. Place a pom pom in the center of the table, with the bottle caps all around it.  
    3. Ask your child to stare at the pom pom. While keeping their head still and only moving their eyes, ask them to quickly find a bottle cap with the same color.  
    4. Ask them to scan to another bottle cap of the same color until they’ve found all of the caps with that color.  
    5. You can add a level to this task by writing letters or numbers in the bottle caps and asking the child to find letters in order or numbers in order.

    Visual Tracking Pursuit Activity (watching and tracking a moving object)

    1. Set one bottle cap on the right side of the table.  
    2. Place another at the left side.  
    3. The adult should blow a crafting pom pom from the right to the left and ask the child to follow the pom with his eyes, without moving their head.
    4. Repeat by blowing the pom pom from the left to the right, front to back, and back to front in front of the child.

    Visual Tracking Tracing Lines (Watching a pencil line as it is formed, and following the line with eye-hand coordination to trace with a pencil or marker)

    1. Set one vertical row of bottle cap on the left side of the child.  
    2. Place another vertical row on the right side.
    3. The adult should draw a line from one bottle cap on the left side to a matching bottle cap on the right side.  
    4. Instruct the child to follow the pencil as you draw.  Nest, trace the line with your finger.  
    5. Ask the child to trace the line with their finger.  
    6. They can then trace the lines with a pencil or marker.
    Visual Tracking toys and tools to improve visual fixation, visual tracking, visual saccades, in handwriting, reading, and so many functional daily tasks and skills in kids.

    Mor eye tracking Strategies

    • Complete mazes
    • Do puzzles.
    • Use a newspaper or magazine article.  Ask your child to highlight all of the letter “a’s”.
    • Draw or paint pictures.
    • Place a marble in a pie pan.  Rotate the pan around and watch the ball as it rolls. Don’t move your head, only your eyes!
    • Find as many things shaped like a a square in the room.  Repeat the activity, finding all of the circular shaped items in the room.
    • Play “I Spy.”
    • Dot-to-dot pictures.
    • Play balloon toss.
    • Use tracing paper to trace and color pictures.
    • Trace letters with chalk.
    • Play flashlight tag on walls and ceilings. The adult an child each holds a flashlight. As the adult shines the light on walls, the child keeps their light superimposed on top of yours. Start with simple strait lines.  Then add curved lines, then a circle.  Tell them what you are drawing next.  Advance the activity by drawing shapes without telling them what you are doing next.
    • Play with wind-up cars.
    • Create a race track on the floor. Follow cars with your eyes.
    • Roll a ball between you and the child.  Roll from left-right, right-left, front-back, back-front, and toss the ball.

    Visual Tracking toys and tools to improve visual fixation, visual tracking, visual saccades, in handwriting, reading, and so many functional daily tasks and skills in kids.

    Visual tracking Toys

    Looking for more tools to improve visual tracking?  The toys below are great for improving visual tracking and visual scanning in fun ways.  These toys, games, and ideas may be a great gift idea for little ones who have visual perceptual difficulties or problems with visual tracking and handwriting, body awareness in space, letter reversals, detail awareness, or maintaining place while reading.  

    SO, save these ideas for grandparents and friends who might ask for gift ideas for birthdays and holidays.  These are some powerhouse visual tracking ideas!

    Use Pattern Blocks and Boards to work on visual fixation of shapes and sizes of shapes. 

    This Wooden Tangram Puzzle has many different shapes and forms that can be copied from instructions. Copying from a diagram is a great way to practice visual tracking.

    For younger kids, this Wooden Stacking Toy encourages tracking for color sorting.  Try some of our pom pom activities that we discussed above!

    Mazes are excellent for fostering and building on visual tracking skills. Particularly those that involve a moving ball such as a Marble Run
    or a labrynth.

    Watching a ball or moving object that is thrown around a room (like a balloon) is a great way to work on tracking in a big area. These Sportime Sensory Balls SloMo Balls are lightweight and move more slowly than a typical ball, allowing kids to visually track the bright color. These are very cool for games of toss and rolling in all planes and directions. Use them to address peripheral tracking as well. 


    A flashlight can be used in so many visual tracking activities. Shine the light on words or letters taped to walls. Play “I Spy” in a dark room, shine shapes like this flashlight can for visual tracking and form tracking.

    More visual Tracking Toys

    Also check out these other top occupational therapy toys:

    1. Fine Motor Toys   
    2. Gross Motor Toys 
    3. Pencil Grasp Toys 
    4. Toys for Reluctant Writers 
    5. Toys for Spatial Awareness 
    6. Toys for Visual Tracking 
    7. Toys for Sensory Play 
    8. Bilateral Coordination Toys 
    9. Games for Executive Functioning Skills 
    10. Toys and Tools to Improve Visual Perception 
    11. Toys to Help with Scissors Skills 
    12. Toys for Attention and Focus 

    Printable List of Toys for VISUAL TRACKING

    Want a printable copy of our therapist-recommended toys to support visual tracking skills?

    As therapy professionals, we LOVE to recommend therapy toys that build skills! This toy list is done for you so you don’t need to recreate the wheel.

    Your therapy caseload will love these VISUAL TRACKING toy recommendations. (There’s space on this handout for you to write in your own toy suggestions, to meet the client’s individual needs, too!)

    Enter your email address into the form below. The OT Toolbox Member’s Club Members can access this handout inside the dashboard, under Educational Handouts. Just be sure to log into your account, first!

    therapy toy

    Visual Tracking Toy Giveaway

    Today’s prize in our annual Therapy Toys and Tools Giveaway is a visual tracking toy…a rebuildable marble run! This (Amazon affiliate link) marble run is a visual tracking (and fine motor, eye-hand coordination) toy with big fun. Plus use it with water for sensory play or drop jingle bells, beads, or crumbled paper into the run to add more fun & fine motor play. It’s a fun way to build visual attention and visual tracking skills through play.

    Want to add this tool to your therapy toolbox??

    And 5 winners will get a set of tools from The OT Toolbox Shop.

    marble run visual tracking toy

    Here’s how it works:

    🏆 12 days of giveaways

    🏆 72 prizes

    🏆Automatic entry for Member’s Club members!

    🏆Toys specifically selected to help kids thrive!

    Want to enter?

    1. Scroll down.
    2. Enter your email address in the form.
    3. That’s it!

    Fine print: This giveaway is in no way affiliated with Facebook/Instagram. There are 6 winners each day. One winner gets the toy, the other 5 get OT Toolbox materials‼️ Giveaway ends 12-6 and winners will be selected and notified 12-7-22. 🗓Open to international entries! 🌎 Be sure to enter a correct email address into the form: that’s how I’ll contact winners! 📧

    Visual Tracking Toy GIVEAWAY
    ​
    and Therapist-Recommended
    ​
    VISUAL TRACKING TOYS HANDOUT

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      We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.
      Visual Tracking toys and tools to improve visual fixation, visual tracking, visual saccades, in handwriting, reading, and so many functional daily tasks and skills in kids.

      Developmental Tools for Teaching Letter Recognition

      teaching letter recogntion

      This blog discusses activities for teaching letter recognition. At its most basic, letter recognition refers to letter identification. It is one of the main skills children need to know before they can name, write, or sound out the letters. The following fun letter recognition games for preschoolers are based on development and skill progression.

      Teaching letter recognition

      What you need to know about Teaching Letter recognition

      Letter recognition, or the ability to recognize and identify letters begins at a very young age. But did you know that teaching letter recognition skills starts way before kindergarten and and even before entering the classroom?

      Kindergarten students are many times exposed to writing and copying letters on trace worksheets, and writing pages. But before a young child can do these skills that are part of the curriculum, knowing what skills lead up to these skills is helpful.

      Even before a young preschooler is able to identify and name letters in printed context such as books or letter play activities, they are learning this skill through the immersion of seeing letters in everyday life.

      Letter identification and the ability to recognize letters in printed form might occur through exposure on television, printed media, following along while a book is being read, or while engaging with technology. 

      There is a progression in the important literacy skill of recognizing printed letters:

      • Letter recognition in isolation – example, pointing out all of the upper case letter As on a letter picture book
      • Letter recognition in every day life – example pointing out the letter S on a stop sign
      • Letter identification – identifying and stating letter’s names
      • Letter identification in text -reading and sounding out a letter’s sound in reading or sounding out written text
      • Matching upper case and lowercase letters– matching the upper case letters to lowercase, and vice versa

      Each step of teaching letter recognition skills is founded in experience and practice. This includes communication with others, exposure, and reading with caregivers. 

      Not every child learns the same way. Starting as young as preschool, caregivers can support children by using their interests and strengths to teach them new skills.

      Children don’t need to read or write until well beyond toddlerhood, but preschoolers enjoy looking at books, finding letters on walks, and learning letters through movement. 

      The best way to teach letter recognition
      The best way to teach letter recognition is by first covering the prerequisite skills.

      Prerequisites to Letter Teaching Letter Recognition

      Several areas are needed to develop letter recognition skills:

      • Object permanence
      • Form constancy
      • Visual discrimination
      • Visual figure ground
      • Working memory
      • Visual memory
      • Visual scanning skills
      • Cognitive skills
      • Physical development

      You can see that these components are founded in visual motor skills, perceptual skills, and working memory.

      Before any of this can happen (and through the process), young children should be exposed to rhymes, songs, and singing the alphabet song. (Add alphabet exercises for movement fun!) This is actually the first step in the road to literacy!

      Teaching letter recognition requires Visual discrimination Skills

      Letter recognition/identification is when a person is able to look at a letter and recall it from previous experience. Recognition of letters occurs both in uppercase and lowercase form. Additionally, there is a cursive letter recognition aspect as well. This blog post covers cursive letter recognition skills.

      This site states that even before letter identification, there are a few other skills that should be taught, including visual discrimination, so the child is able to find differences among lines and shapes. 

      Visual discrimination can be taught in isolation through books or worksheets, or in games and activities such as Memory games, matching and sorting activities, or playing “what’s the same” and “what’s different” through hidden picture activities and puzzles.  We cover this visual perceptual skill in our blog post, Wacky Wednesday book activity.

      Visual Memory Another great play-based activity to develop the visual perceptual memory skills needed for letter recognition, are games that challenge kids to notice differences. Present the child with a tray of everyday items, and ask them to memorize the items on the tray. Ask them to look away or cover their eyes. Take away one or more items, and have them recall the missing items. 

      Letter activities- Other ways to encourage letter play is through printed alphabet worksheets, puzzles, letter magnets, or other alphabet manipulatives such as letter beads. You can ask the child to sort letters based on shape, such as those that include straight lines, versus curved line, or diagonal letters. You can also sort letters by letters based on size: tall letters, short letters, and letters with a tail that hangs below the lines.

      Prerequisites to teaching letter recognition begins in infancy

      These prerequisite skills that support letter recognition, such as visual discrimination and memory, develop as early as infancy, when young children identify 3D objects that are familiar to them like their bottle, favorite toy, or their parents. It is important infants experience tummy time in order to develop visual motor skills, and strong oculomotor skills, as a result of time spent on the belly while looking at objects.

      As children grow, their visual discrimination becomes more refined and they are able to identify pictures and written words.

      Toddlers are able to point to a picture of a puppy in a book they are reading, or identify who is hiding under the blanket.

      Object permanence and working memory

      When a child sees an object and knows what it is called, this is referred to as object permanence. This requires working memory skill development to use what is seen, remember it, and store it for later retrieval.

      While visual discrimination is the ability to detect differences and similarities in size, shape, color and pattern, cognitive ability is necessary to recognize these differences based on previous exposure, along with memory to have stored that information away in their mind’s eye to recall when needed.

      This skill is typically associated with letter formation and handwriting skills. Identifying and discriminating between differences in letters allow kids to copy and write letters from memory. However, noticing and identifying the differences in the curves, diagonal lines, and lines that make up a letter are essential build up to that skill.

      Hearing and saying the letter sounds associated with letters are part of the process, too. Phonemic awareness is developed initially through play, but this skill continues to develop and progress as reading and literacy skills are refined in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and beyond.

      Teaching letter recognition begins with the ability to recognize details in visual images

      In more depth, students should identify likeness and differences of shapes or forms, colors, as well as the position of various objects and people. Developing discrimination skills will help children learn the alphabet and then both read and print letters a lot better. 

      There are numerous types of visual discrimination that children should begin to understand and develop. These include: 

      • 3D Objects
      • Shapes
      • Drawings & Pictures
      • Colors
      • Letters and Words
      • Sequences

      Letter recognition games

      The letter recognition activities and games and listed below are fun ways to instruct children in the essential skills needed for reading and literacy. It’s literally the building block to reading.

      • Name Recognition- Start with recognizing the letters of their name. Point out letters in the child’s name and ask them to point to letters in a book or on a sign. Children can first begin with recognizing upper case letters of their name, then moving onto the lowercase letters. Working first with uppercase letters is best, because capital letters are easier to discriminate between. Lowercase letters have many similar letters, b,d,p,g,q, and j. 
      • Bean Bag Letter Toss – Affix upper and lowercase letter stickers to one side of each bean bag. Put a basket or bucket across from your child. As your child throws the bean bags into the bucket, ask them to name the letters and their sounds of the letters. Students can run around looking for matching letters scattered around the room.
      • Alphabet Play dough- Write down large letters on a piece of paper and place that paper into a sheet protector. Encourage your child to form the letters on the sheet protector with play dough of their choosing.
      • I Spy Letter Walk –Take a walk with your child and look for letters in their environment such as on license plates, street signs and building. Play, I Spy, searching for different letters, or letters in sequential order. The printable tools in the Letter Fine Motor Kit are a great resource for this activity.
      • Jumping to letters – Create a letter pathway with sidewalk chalk on a playground or sidewalk. Children can walk, run, jump, or crawl across the letters, naming them as they move forward! Change it up by asking them to walk backwards along the path. This is a fun motor planning activity.
      • Chasing the Alphabet – (Amazon affiliate link:) Sammy Chases the Alphabet is a book I wrote about Sammy the Golden Dog playing fetch with balls around his farm. Each ball has a letter on it. After you read the book, bring the story to life by adding letter stickers to ball pit balls. Toss the balls around a room or outside, and encourage your child to find them all, naming the letters on each ball they find.
      • Food Alphabet Worksheets – Pair real food items with these food worksheets. These worksheets include the letter, a food that starts with the letter, and all of the letters that make the word. As children sound out each letter, ask them to point to the letter that makes that sound.

      more letter recognition Activities

      Alphabet activities like the ones below support recognition skills through repetition. Alphabet recognition occurs through songs, play, and hands-on activities.

      • The Soundabet Song – Letter identification doesn’t just include what letters look like, it also includes what letters sound like. Can your child point to the letter name as well as the sound it makes? This Soundabet Song is a great way to teach kids how to pair the sounds of the letters to what the letters look like. 
      • Letter Push – This ABC play dough activity uses plastic letters and play dough! Add in some fine motor skills to alphabet identification, by having children push plastic letters into play dough while they name the letter. This can be done as a circle time game, where each child take a turn pushing in a letter, or a small group time where every child has the opportunity to push the play dough letters. 
      • Alphabet Sensory Bins – Nothing keeps my preschoolers entertained more then a large sensory bin! Adding alphabet letters or letter markers to the sensory bins for children to find and match, is one of the most exciting letter identification games. Check out these sensory bin base ideas to use in different letter recognition sensory  bins.
      • This alphabet sensory writing tray requires users to recognize letters by uncovering them from a sensory medium. This is a great activity for recognizing letter parts such as diagonals or the curved part of a letter as the letter is uncovered.
      • Metal alphabet tray play – My favorite is to add a metal pan to the sensory table, and ask kids to stick the magnet letters they find in the sensory materials onto the metal pan!
      • Alphabet Discover Bottle – This sensory discovery bottle can be used before naptime, bedtime, in a calm down corner, or as a learning activity. As children shake the bottle, they can name the letters that appear! 
      • Match letters- Match uppercase letters to lower case letters, match different fonts of letters, and match letters in different environments (books, signs, on television, in print, etc.)
      • Gross motor activities- Use a letter floor mat to jump on a specific letter. Ask the child to find a letter magnet and place it on the letter mat.
      • Letter recognition scavenger hunts- Use ideas like these letter clothes pins scavenger hunt for ideas.
      • Write letters in shaving cream or in sand
      • Sort letters by word families when teaching letter groups
      • Play beginning sound games- I spy with my little eye, a word that starts with /b/
      • Use dot markers to dot letters
      • Spot letters on a white board and trace with a dry erase marker
      • make letters from pipe cleaners
      • Sensory play activities
      • Trace letters on sandpaper

      A final note teaching letter recognition skills:

      Learning through play doesn’t have to be stressful. Every child learns differently, and that includes recognizing letters of the alphabet. Once a child has developed the visual discrimination, expressive and receptive language skills needed to participate in letter identification activities, notice what motivates them to learn.

      Do they like to move, cut, color, dance, or sing? Pick a letter activity that you know your child will love, and they will keep coming back for more. This will result in increasing their attention span and learning new letters daily. Follow your child’s interests and you will surely have a wonderful time!

      Jeana Kinne is a veteran preschool teacher and director. She has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. Her Bachelors Degree is in Child Development and her Masters Degree is in Early Childhood Education. She has spent over 10 years as a coach, working with Parents and Preschool Teachers, and another 10 years working with infants and toddlers with special needs. She is also the author of the “Sammy the Golden Dog” series, teaching children important skills through play.

      The Letter Fine Motor Kit is a 100 page printable packet includes everything you need for hands-on letter learning and multisensory handwriting!

      This resource is great for pediatric occupational therapists working on handwriting skills, fine motor skills, visual motor skills, and more. Use the activities to promote a variety of functional tasks.

      Teachers will find this printable packet easily integrated into literacy centers, classroom activities, and multisensory learning.

      Parents will find this resource a tool for learning at home, supporting skill development, and perfect for therapy at home!

      MULTISENSORY HANDWRITING

      Grab the Letter Fine Motor Kit and use all of the senses, including heavy work, or proprioceptive input, through the hands ask kids build and manipulate materials to develop handwriting and letter formation skills.

      Forest Animals Shadow Matching Worksheet

      shadow matching worksheet with forest animals theme

      Today we have a fun shadow matching worksheet for you. This forest animals activity is great for adding to a woodland animal theme, but more importantly, use the shadow worksheet to build visual perceptual skills in areas such as form constancy, visual memory, and more.

      Shadow math
      Free printable shadow matching worksheet with a forest animals theme.

      Shadow matching worksheet

      How are your visual perceptual skills?  

      My learner can see, but can’t really SEE.  Wait, what?  Isn’t all “seeing” the same?  Not really.  There is seeing in the sense of visual acuity, how well the eyes can see items up close and at a distance.  Then there is seeing in the sense or perceiving an object. A person can have great visual acuity, 20/20 in fact, but have terrible visual perception.  In visual acuity the eye basically has to see the object.  In perception it not only has to see the object, but make sense of it. These vision issues are covered in our blog post on visual efficiency.

      For example; I can see the puzzle pieces, but I can’t perceive that each piece becomes something whole, or which piece is the right shape.

      This article does an excellent job of explaining visual perception, its effects, and how to improve this skill.

      Armed with this information, it is critical to work on developing visual perceptual skills at an early age.  Visual perceptual skills begin in infancy with facial recognition, and by school age are necessary for reading, writing, and mathematics.

      When it comes to visual perception, the OT Toolbox has you covered!  Check out the latest PDF free printable, Forest Animals Shadow Matching Worksheet.

      You can get the shadow matching worksheet below by entering your email address into the form, or head to The OT Toolbox Member’s Club and going to the visual perception area. Use this item in a forest animals theme! And if you’re doing a forest animals theme, definitely be sure to add this Forest Animals Scissor Skills Activity. It’s a free set of printable puzzles kids can color, cut out, and put back together.

      This is a great activity to build visual perceptual skills as early as preschool age. It addresses form constancy, figure ground, visual discrimination and visual attention. You can find other matching activities that support visual perceptual skill development in our free visual perception packet. It includes resources like this flower match-up, and outer space matching worksheets.

      Ways to modify the shadow matching worksheet:

      • Laminate the page for reusability. This saves on resources, and many learners love to write with markers!
      • Print in black and white or color for different levels of difficulty
      • Cut the shapes and make a matching game instead of using a writing tool to draw lines
      • Talk about the animals, describe their characteristics, and give context clues to help your learner understand why certain pictures match

      Other skills addressed using this forest animal activity sheet:

      • Attention
      • Behavior
      • Frustration tolerance
      • Task avoidance
      • Self regulation
      • Organization
      • Scanning
      • Fine motor skills – pencil grasp, drawing lines

      In order to create a full lesson or treatment plan, therapists will need to be armed with more than just this one shadow matching worksheet.  The OT Toolbox offers several free printable items to work on visual perception, including:

      If you are looking for all of your resources in one place, the OT Toolbox also offers a Visual Processing Bundle, featured here:

      What other tasks or games work on visual perception?

      • Puzzles or dot to dots
      • Working on spatial concepts such as “in, out, on, under, next to, up, down, in front of.”
      • Hidden pictures games 
      • The game Memory – matching hidden pictures
      • Word search puzzles and mazes
      • Construction tasks using legos or popsicle sticks
      • Copying 3D block designs
      • Cleaning and organizing – washing dishes, sorting silverware, sorting laundry, organizing spaces
      • There are several Ipad apps available if necessary, but I recommend using electronics with caution, and following up with a real life task.

      Now you know  more about “seeing” better.  Before working on visual perceptual skills, make sure your learner has correct visual acuity.  Sometimes their struggle is due to acuity rather than perception.  In this case, a pair of eyeglasses is an easy fix!

      Whether your learner is working on this shadow worksheet, or any other resources by the OT Toolbox, make learning fun and motivating.  There is nothing better than a learner who is excited to see what their therapist has to offer.

      shadow worksheet, shadow matching worksheet, forest animals

      Free Shadow Matching Worksheet

      Want to work on shadow matching with a forest animals theme? This shadow worksheet supports development of visual perceptual skills through play! Perfect for adding to a forest animals weekly therapy theme. Enter your email address into the form below.

      Or, if you are a Member’s Club member, be sure to log in and then head to the visual perception area of free downloads that are on The OT Toolbox website. Not a member? Join now.

      Free Forest Animals Worksheets

        We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

        *The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for readability, however this information is relevant for students, patients, clients, children of all ages, etc. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.

        Victoria Wood

        Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

        Writing and Reading Stick

        Reading stick

        When it comes to handwriting, copying without losing place on the page impacts writing (visual attention plays a big role here), so much so that a reading stick or writing stick tool can be a huge help. Here we are showing an easy way to make a reading stick or writing stick that can be used to impact writing without missing letters or words…and why this happens.

        What is a Reading Stick

        Handwriting is a challenge when spacing is inaccurate.  Poorly spaced letters and words as a result of visual spatial difficulties can lead to illegible handwriting.

        A reading stick is a pointer stick that kids can use to follow along with words when reading and writing.

        When reading from a chalkboard or smartboard, a teacher might use a large pointer stick for this task. One tip for teachers is to add a bright visual cue to the end of the pointer stick to add a visual contrast that is engaging and visual. This might be something like bright tape added to the end of the pointer stick, neon tape or post-it notes folded over the tip of the pointer stick are some ways to easily do this.

        But, when kids are reading and copying from a space on their desk, they can use a miniature version of the pointer stick as a reading tool. What’s nice about the version that we created is that the reading stick can be used in many different ways:

        • Use the pointer stick with the visual cue at the end to point along with reading from a book.
        • Turn the reading stick on it’s side to follow along line by line when reading.
        • Use the craft stick as a spacing tool when writing.

        Why use a reading stick for writing?

        A writing stick is a handwriting tool that can also be called a pointer stick for handwriting. Students and teachers can use a writing stick to follow along with written work to support handwriting needs so that a student doesn’t miss letters or words when writing.

        Copying handwriting work requires several areas of visual processing:

        Using this pointer stick to copy words can help with copying written work without omitting letters or words. The reading stick then doubles as a spacing tool.

        Using a spacing tool can be a HUGE help for some kids!  This handwriting spacing tool pointer stick is a physical prompt and a visual cue that helps kids in handwriting and become independent with when writing.

        There is a lot going on when a child is required to write.  The visual motor skills needed to accurately copy or write written work requires the processing of visual perceptual skills along with coordination and manipulation of the pencil along lines and margins.

        These are a lot of different areas that can break down and result in sloppy or illegible handwriting!

        Try this handwriting spacing tool pointer stick to help kids with spatial awareness when writing.

        Use a spacing tool pointer stick to help with placing spaces between letters and words, assuring words, phrases, or sentences are not omitted, and when aligning columns of words, as in lists.

        Handwriting Spacing Tool Pointer Stick

        Affiliate links are included in this post.

        Try using this spacing pointer stick to keep margins aligned too.

        Looking for other ways to address spacing in margin use?  Here are a bunch of ideas for spatial awareness with margins.

        use a marker to make a reading stick to follow along with words when reading or writing.
        Use a marker to make a reading stick for kids.

        You will need just two materials to make a spacing pointer stick:

        Amazon affiliate links included:

        Use the marker to make a brightly colored dot on one end of the craft stick.  You could also use a small sticker, but I wanted to ensure a bright contrast between the colored craft stick and the colored dot.

        Use a reading stick to follow along when reading to make sure words aren't missed.
        Use a reading stick when reading so kids don’t miss words or lines of text when reading.

        And that’s it!  Show the child how to use it to keep their place when copying written work, when aligning margins, and when spacing between words.

        Use the spacing tool pointer stick to help kids with spatial awareness in these ways:

        • Point to words when copying from a text or sheet on a desk.  The pointer stick can help keep the child’s place, visually.
        • Align columns in math and lists of words.
        • Align left and right margins on the page.  Keep the margin from drifting in toward the middle of the page.
        • Space between letters and words when writing.
        Use this handwriting spacing tool pointer stick to align columns of words or math problems when writing, perfect for kids who struggle with spatial awareness.

        Read more about spatial awareness and how it relates to handwriting.

        Some spacing tools can be themed!  Go beyond the simple dot or sticker and make a spaceman spacing tool. You can also use a clothespin tool for spacing between words when writing. Finally, this writing spacer craft is another handwriting craft kids can make.

        Another great way to add hands-on play to spatial awareness is an activity like these spacing puzzles.

        Use this handwriting spacing tool pointer stick to help kids with spatial awareness when writing.

        Need more handwriting strategies?  

        The Handwriting Book is a comprehensive resource created by experienced pediatric OTs and PTs.

        The Handwriting Book covers everything you need to know about handwriting, guided by development and focused on function. This digital resource is is the ultimate resource for tips, strategies, suggestions, and information to support handwriting development in kids.

        The Handwriting Book breaks down the functional skill of handwriting into developmental areas. These include developmental progression of pre-writing strokes, fine motor skills, gross motor development, sensory considerations, and visual perceptual skills. Each section includes strategies and tips to improve these underlying areas.

        • Strategies to address letter and number formation and reversals
        • Ideas for combining handwriting and play
        • Activities to practice handwriting skills at home
        • Tips and strategies for the reluctant writer
        • Tips to improve pencil grip
        • Tips for sizing, spacing, and alignment with overall improved legibility

        Click here to grab your copy of The Handwriting Book today.

        Dinosaur Free Printable For Visual Perception

        dinosaur free printable

        If you know a kiddo that loves all things dinos, than this dinosaur free printable is for you! It’s a visual perception activity designed to develop and support visual perceptual skills such as visual discrimination, form constancy, visual closure, and other visual processing skills (visual tracking for one!) To grab this free printable dinosaur activity, read on! Add this resource to your dinosaur activities for an OT theme.

        Dinosaur free printable page

        Dinosaur Free Printable

        If you are working on the visual perceptual skills needed for letter formation, handwriting, or reading, then you are probably loving the recent free visual perception printable sheets that we’ve been sharing on the site.  

        This visual perception worksheet is great for working on skills like visual motor skills, visual scanning, visual discrimination, spatial reasoning, and visual memory.  Also, it’s a great way to develop pencil control by moving the pencil around obstacles as kids connect the matching pairs of dinosaurs.

        Visual perceptual skills are needed for so many functional skills. You’ll find easy and fun ways to work on visual perceptual skills through play here. 

        Kids will love this free visual perception printable sheet with a dinosaur theme

        How to use this dinosaur printable

        This printable dino activity can be used in many different ways to support hands-on learning.

        Print the page and slide it into a plastic page protector.  Kids can then use a dry erase marker to work on the page over and over again.  

        Try these tips to use the worksheet in different ways:

        • Connect the dinosaurs with a dry erase marker
        • Place play dough balls on the matching dinosaurs
        • Use finger paints to place a fingerprint on each matching dinosaur
        • Play I Spy: Ask users to find an object that has specific colors or other details

        OR, use it right on your tablet.  You won’t be able to draw a line to connect matching dinosaurs, but you will be able to save the ink as kids use their finger to connect the matching dinosaurs.  They will still address those visual perceptual skills by using the freebie on a tablet’s screen.

        Then, use this activity along with other dinosaur activities to support development of other skills. Other dinosaur themed ideas to use along with this printable activity include:

        Free Dinosaur Printabale

        To get your copy of this printable page, enter your email address into the form below. The printable is part of our 24 page free visual perception packet, so you can use all of the items in the packet along with this dinosaur activity. Just print and go!

        OR, if you are an OT Toolbox Member, you can log in and go to our toolboxes and access this resource along with every other freebie here on the website. For this particular tool, head to our visual tools page.

        Look for more free visual perception worksheets like this one, coming soon to the site.  

        You can check out our space theme visual perception free printable, or if you sign up for the freebie below, you’ll be directed to a page with all of the free printables in one place.    

        These visual perception apple theme shape stamps are a perfect way to work on visual perceptual skills and fine motor skills with DIY stampers.

        Be sure to try some of these pencil control activities to help with the visual motor skills needed for handwriting and to challenge a child you know with more activities just like the dinosaur free printable.  

        FREE VISUAL PERCEPTION PRINTABLE PACKET

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          Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

          Visual Noise and Learning

          Visual noise in the classroom

          In this post you will be discovering how to create a calm classroom, specifically tips to avoid the visual noise that distracts learning in the school environment. Classroom dĂ©cor and organization can directly effect the engagement level of children in any classroom or learning space. When the environment is too visually stimulating, a student’s ability to focus becomes difficult. Keeping children’s attention can become frustrating. When a classroom environment that is soothing and organized is created, children are better able to stay engaged. In this blog, you will learn about the three different ways to make your classroom visually calm. 

          Visual noise in the classroom

          What is Visual Noise?

          When working with children, teachers think about all of the colors of the rainbow, and want to make classrooms bright and cheery. So many classroom theme sets have fun colors, bright designs, and patterns, contrasting bulletin board boarders, etc. Many believe that having a colorful classroom will keep children interested and engaged. 

          Visual Noise is just that: a visually distracting, or “noisy” visual scene in the classroom. A lot of teachers set up bulletin boards throughout the room with cut-outs in various themes: animal/monster/any theme , alphabet stickers, and painted murals on the walls. Maybe your classroom has a circle time rug that includes the ten different color squares. Perhaps you want to make sure all the children have something they like to do, so you have 20 fine motor choices in the manipulative area. 

          There is just one problem with using these types of visuals in the classroom, they are distracting! 

          • The bulletin boards all around the room are adorable, and fun to look at. So during circle time, you might find a child gazing at the wall, figuring out what new item is there. 
          • When there are rugs filled with colors, you may notice children looking down at the rug, maybe at the bright colors, while singing the color song in their head.
          • If teachers provide too many choices in one area of the classroom, children work with one toy for three minutes, then they are onto the next, without honing in, or practicing the skills that were intended.
          • For young children, and lots of adults, less is more! 

          visual processing

          Humans use vision from birth, to engage with the world around them. The way your brain process what you see, impacts how you interpret your interactions with the environment, and the people around you. To learn more about vision, this amazing PDF discusses visual hypersensitivity and under-sensitivity (or sensory seeking). 

          There are some visual processing red flags that may indicate difficulties with visual processing or ocular motor control:

          • Increased sensitivity to light
          • Easily distracted by visual stimuli, or difficulty sustaining visual attention to an activity
          • Frequently squints, rubs eyes, or gets a headache after visually demanding tasks such as reading, using a phone/tablet/computer, or watching television
          • Loses place in reading or writing
          • Trouble finding things they are looking for, even when they seem to be “right in front of them”
          • Distractions with reading
          • Difficulty tracking visual information
          • Difficulty initiating or holding eye contact
          • Difficulty focusing on one piece of visual information
          • Increased fear of, or desire for, being in the dark
          • Difficulty discriminating between similar shapes, letters, or pictures
          • Letter reversals or number reversals
          • Difficulties with handwriting such as letter reversals, sizing, spacing, or alignment of letters
          • Frequently loses their place while reading or copying
          • Often bumps into things
          • May be slow or hesitant with stairs
          • Difficulty with visually stimulating activities, i.e., puzzles, locating objects in pictures, completing mazes, word searches or dot-to-dots
          • Trouble knowing left from right or writing with both hands

          How to reduce visual noise when planning your classroom

          When planning out your classroom, visual stimulation is important, however there are many ways to make sure there is reduced visual noise, so the environment is not overwhelming.

          Think about how you feel when you go to the spa. Those deep earthy wall colors calm your bodies and nerves instantly! The Montessori and Reggio Emilia educational philosophies advise visual components as a way to keep their classroom calm and focused.

          The Reggio Emilia philosophy recognizes the environment as the child’s third teacher. What is in a child’s environment, how it’s organized, and what it looks like, directly impacts what a child will learn that day. 

          two ways to make sure your environment is visually calming 

          Colors – When picking out colors for your classroom, whether it be for the furniture, rugs, or wall decor, the best way to support a calm visual classroom, is to choose more natural colors. These include blues, greens and browns.

          • Choose toy baskets, or white bins, as opposed to brightly colored ones.
          • Consider turning toy shelves around or covering with neutral fabric to further reduce visual noise.
          • Choose predictable carpet rugs (Amazon affiliate link) like this one, instead of random colorful squares. Carpet samples of neutral colors are an excellent idea to create boundaries while limiting visual distraction.
          • When decorating your walls, allow for empty blank space, and use more of children’s artwork. Consider the use of cloth and fabric.

          Classroom Organization – When choosing how many activities and materials to place in each are of your classroom, keep in mind that less is more! When children have too many options to choose from, this can create a short attention span, and overwhelm from choice overload.

          Organization in the classroom can mean stacks of papers, tons of sticky notes, messy desks, and disorganized files, too.

          In a typical preschool classroom, there are 8 areas of learning: art, fine motor, science, reading, dramatic play, block, large motor and snack! When you use furniture to visually create specific spaces for each center, the classroom is organized, and children know what is expected of them in each area.

          Older classrooms may not have the toys, block areas, and motor components, but there are designated areas: group areas, centers, desks, cubbies, or lockers, teacher areas, information centers, etc. All of these areas can be considered when it comes to visual input.

          This blog from Lovely Connection, on preschool classroom set up, includes important aspects to think about as you plan your classroom layout. She includes information about including noise, popularity, supervision, boundaries, space, and the race track (when kids run around the room in a circular pattern!)

          What happens when children are still overwhelmed, even when the environments are visually calming?

          When a child feels overwhelmed for any reason, having a calm down corner, that is easily accessible and they can stay in as long as they need, is a must have.  My “Soothing Sammy Emotions Program.” is an effective calm down area because students are excited to spend time with the adorable golden retriever Sammy. Not only does “The Sammy Program” teach children how to calm down, it guides them through communication and problem solving situations in a visual way that isn’t overwhelming.

          Check out this great blog about visual processing and visual efficiency from the OT Toolbox archives. When a child has visual processing difficulties, they have a harder time taking in visual information, and processing it in order to make sense of it.

          This visual processing bundle, also available in the Toolbox, can support children who are demonstrating visual processing challenges. 

          The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook (also available on Amazon) written by Colleen Beck of the OT Toolbox, is a great resource to start understanding sensory processing disorders.

          A final note about visual noise

          Visual noise doesn’t only occur indoors, it can happen outdoors, especially if there is a lot of activity and sunlight. Being mindful of the visual stimuli outdoors, is just as important as setting up an indoor classroom.

          If you have a child who is having a hard time visually processing their environment outside, these visual sensory activities can be completed outdoors to support their sensory system.

          While considering visual sensory overload in the classroom, also be sure to check out our resource on auditory sensitivities in the classroom. Both are very useful in setting up an inclusive classroom environment for success.

          Classroom themes are adorable and cute! When planning your classroom, keep in mind how “busy” and overstimulating different colors and amount of objects can be. This will help keep your students calm and engaged. Although everyone processes their environment differently, anyone can all benefit from a more calming environment, especially when learning new skills! 

          Jeana Kinne is a veteran preschool teacher and director. She has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. Her Bachelors Degree is in Child Development and her Masters Degree is in Early Childhood Education. She has spent over 10 years as a coach, working with Parents and Preschool Teachers, and another 10 years working with infants and toddlers with special needs. She is also the author of the “Sammy the Golden Dog” series, teaching children important skills through play.

          Vision Books for Developing Skills

          Vision books to develop visual processing skills

          In this post, I have highlighted references to vision books that can specifically be used in therapy interventions to support the development of visual processing skills. These are the Top 9 Books for addressing vision concerns, that might be incorporated into visual therapy, or occupational therapy activities.  Each of these visual skill building books covers aspects of visual perception, visual processing, and visual motor skills. 

          Start by reading, “Visual Problems or Attention” to help decipher the cause of visual processing difficulties.

          After reading Visual Problems or Attention, check out the Visual Screening Packet available on the OT Toolbox to further assist in diagnoses and treatment.

          For more information on vision skills, check out this post from the OT Toolbox archives.

          Vision books to support visual processing development

          Vision Books

          Looking for books on vision, visual motor integration and visual perceptual skills? Check out the list of books below that are chock full of information and treatment ideas! 

          Many of these books have reproducible pages, or can be laminated/placed into plastic sleeves to be reused.

          The list of books below are linked to Amazon affiliate links for ease of searching, however they can be also found by googling the titles.

          Vision Book: Eyegames

          An OT and Optometrist Offer Activities to Enhance Vision! By Lois Hickman and Rebecca Hutchins is an easy and fun vison book with games and exercises for developing visual skills.

          This vision book is an easy read about vision deficits, and how they impact function. It has a checklist of red flags to be on the lookout for. There are also loads of great therapy activities to target each skill deficit. Activities are geared for a variety of function levels, along with easy task gradation. Activities are designed to be completed in the home, clinic, or school settings. 

          Vision Book for Visual Tracking Exercises

          Visual Perception, Visual Discrimination & Visual Tracking Exercises for Better Reading, Writing and Focus 

          The next set of vision books are created by Bridgette Sharp, and Bridgette O’Neil. These books make for a great set of tools to have in your bag. 

          The Visual Tracking Exercises Book is a beginner book for developing tracking skills. As a bonus, you can use this with learners who are working on left/right awareness as well. Worksheets are varied with numbers, shapes, patterns, color, and black and white fonts, to help keep things interesting. 

          Vision Book for Scanning Skills

          Advanced Visual Scanning Exercises 

          As it says in the title, this visual perception book is for your advanced learners who are continuing to work on strengthening their eye muscles, gearing up for chapter book reading, and increased desk work. Patterns become more complex, and are in black and white only. 

          It can be helpful to read more on what is visual scanning and check out the red flags section and then use this vision book if needed.

          Visual Scanning Exercises for Young Students

          This visual scanning beginner book has a variety of simple grid patterns with large colorful pictures for younger children, beginning learners, pre-readers, and children who are behind in reading readiness due to tracking and scanning issues. The images are large, colorful, and have plenty of variety to keep them engaged in therapy.

          Vision Books, Visual Scanning for Students 

          This Ready to Scan vision book is for more advanced scanners, or for kids/learners who are skipping lines when reading or copying. It’s a great resource for building endurance and eye muscle strength. As a bonus, use the patterns for reversal training and directionality! 

          BIG BOOK: Beginners, Intermediate & Advanced Visual Scanning Exercises 

          Like it’s title says, this book has something for everyone. This is a great place to start your toolbox for visual skills. Patterns work through a progression, starting with large images, moving onto smaller images. They present a variety of pictures and geometric shapes, both in color and black/white. This book is a great place to create home programs with and homework from each session. 

          Vision Book for Visual Tracking

          Vision books, Visual Tracking Exercises with 100 High Frequency Sight Words 

          If you’re looking to change it up from geometric patterns and pictures, this book is a great option. The book consists of a variety of exercises using sight words. Use the pages to work on discrimination and word shape training as well. 

          Start by reading up on what visual tracking is and then go from there with this vision workbook.

          Visual Skills Book for Reversals

          Letter reversals are related to vision skills. You’ll want to start by reading more on p and q reversals or b and d reversals. Others who write letters backwards can benefit as well.

          The visual skills book, Brain Training for Reversals, is a brain training vision book consists of exercises specifically for reversals of b-d-p-q. Exercises range in complexity to address all skill levels. These brain training worksheets can also be used for scanning, to practice reading, and directionality. You can also use these worksheets similar to an eye spy game, by having the child look for all of one letter. 

          Visual Discrimination Book

          Visual discrimination is a visual skill that impacts reading, writing, math, comprehension, and learning.

          The Visual Discrimination book is great for grades 2-8 and focuses on finding patterns and solving problems through the use of colorful geometric patterns and images. This is great for critical thinking skills, along with working on spot the difference (visual disclination) tasks.

          Book 9 is a higher level book, so save it for your older, more high functioning learners, or adult learners who are working at this reading level.

          Spot the Difference Vision Books

          Another great resource are “spot the difference” books! There are hundreds of spot the difference books to choose from. These books not only address visual discrimination, but can also be used to work on following directions, scanning, item location in a busy environment, and general visual processing skills.

          The OT Toolbox is offering a FREE visual perception packet to download and use with your learners.

          Visual Closure Book

          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.

          Visual closure skills are essential for reading with fluency.  It’s necessary for written work to happen without concentrating on each letter’s lines and curves. Visual Closure allows us to comprehend words and letters without actively assessing each line.

          Challenges with puzzles, identifying sight words, copying in handwriting, math tasks, and other reading or writing activities require visual closure skills.

          This workbook includes:

          • Information on visual closure and visual processing
          • Red Flags Indicating a Visual Closure Problem
          • 15 ways to use the workbook and strategies
          • More Visual Closure Activities (use these tactics to grade the visual closure activities to meet individual needs, challenge, users, and support the development of skills)
          • Workbook – Level 1
          • Workbook – Level 2
          • Workbook – Level 3

          This workbook is designed to provide background information on visual closure as a tool for understanding this visual perceptual skill. It’s a guide for advocating for common visual closure difficulties through the included screening tool broken down as “red flags”.

          NOTE* The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for readability and inclusion. The previous information is relevant for students, patients, clients, preschoolers, kids/children of all ages and stages, or whomever could benefit from these resources.

          Contributor: Kaylee is a pediatric occupational therapist with a bachelors in Health Science from Syracuse University at Utica College, and a Masters in Occupational Therapy from Utica College. Kaylee has been working with children with special needs for 8 years, and practicing occupational therapy for 4 years, primarily in a private clinic, but has home health experience as well. Kaylee has a passion for working with the areas of feeding, visual development, and motor integration.