OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY SUPPLIES MATCH IT CARDS

OT Spot it game for occupational therapy

Today’s free resource for OT month is a fun OT Spot It type of game. This occupational therapy supplies match it activity develops visual perceptual skills and uses common OT materials and supplies. If you are working with kids, you’ll want to grab this freebie as a tool to use during OT month, but also all year long!

OT Spot it game for occupational therapy

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY SUPPLIES MATCH IT CARDS

This therapy game is part of a larger set that you can find in our OT Materials Bundle. And, incase you missed the OT month freebie that we shared already, be sure to grab this set of OT coloring pages, too. Both are great resources to add to your toolbox.

If you have ever played the (Amazon affiliate link) Spot It card game, you will love these Occupational Therapy Supplies Match it Cards!  Spot it games come in dozens of different styles to motivate even the most resistant learner. With these occupational therapy tools matching cards, learners can practice visual perceptual skills using a familiar platform. 

Why are visual perceptual skills important?

We’ve previously shared a great post explaining the importance of visual perception on learning.  Visual perception is important for reading fluency, decoding words, scanning a page, remembering what has been seen, finding things in a drawer or closet, playing games like puzzles, recalling/recognizing correct spelling, completing math equations, and so much more.

As a related resource, this free visual perception packet covers many different visual perceptual skills.

Spot It Game for Visual Perception

If you’ve seen the Spot It game being used in therapy sessions as a tool for development, you may have wondered how this popular game supports visual perceptual skills.

What visual perceptual skills are used in the occupational therapy supplies match it game?

  • Visual Attention: The ability to focus on important visual information and filter out unimportant background information.
  • Visual Memory: The ability to recall visual traits of a form or object.
  • Visual Spatial Relationships: Understanding the relationships of objects within the environment.
  • Visual Figure Ground: The ability to locate something in a busy background.
  • Visual Form Constancy: The ability to know that a form or shape is the same, even if it has been made smaller/larger or has been turned around.

All of these skills are addressed through the use of the Spot It games, and that’s why we wanted to create an OT version to develop skills!

Use the OT Match IT Game

Because April is OT month, it is a great time to talk about the role of occupational therapy with other students, or to work with learners on understanding why they get OT. 

They may not understand why they get to see this awesome person every week.  By educating learners about the role OT plays in their lives, they can begin to explain it to other people.  When we educate other adults about occupational therapy, we are advocating for the profession, as well as teaching them how we can help.

WHERE WILL YOU TAKE THIS ACTIVITY?

  1. A great place to start would be by ordering the rest of this occupational therapy supplies match it cards HERE. This bundle of occupational therapy activities includes 13 printable products that can be printed off and used with students in therapy sessions to celebrate all of the therapy tools kids use. This packet is great for OT month, and all year long.
  2. An all inclusive lesson plan can easily be made by using all of the occupational therapy month themed activity freebies:
  • Occupational Therapy Coloring pages
  • OT Words Handwriting Sheets– coming later this week
  • Occupational therapy Fine Motor Game– coming later this week
  • Therapy Tools Word Search– coming later this week
  • OT Supplies Match It Game– Grab it below
  1. Create a visual perception theme addressing several of the important visual perceptual skills.  The OT Toolbox has some brand new resources for visual perception. 
  2. Color and laminate these cards to build a reusable game set.  Make a special game set for your learners to take home and share with family
  3. Have learners research and learn more about occupational therapy and the supplies or tools we use

HOW TO DOCUMENT Spot IT Games in Therapy

If you are using these occupational therapy supplies match it cards as part of your treatment plan, you will need to accurately document your learner’s skill level. 

  • The percentage of correct cards matched
  • How long it takes to do each card
  • Attention to detail, following directions, prompts and reminders needed, level of assistance given
  • Can your learner scan the page to identify the correct items?  Are they recognizing what they are matching or merely matching shapes?
  • How many times do you need to repeat the directions so your learner can follow them?
  • How many reminders does your learner need while doing this activity?
  • First determine what goals and skills you are addressing. Are you looking strictly at visual perception and picture matching?  Or something else entirely such as executive function and behavior?
  • Focus your observations on the skills you are addressing.  It is alright to address one (or ten) skills at once, just be sure to watch for those skills during the activity.  This can take practice to watch everything all at once. Newer clinicians often videotape sessions and go back and review clinical observations they may have missed.
  • Use data to back up your documentation. Avoid or limit phrases such as min assist, fair, good, some, many, etc.  They are vague and do not contain the numbers and data critical to proficient documentation.  Instead use percentages, number of trials, number of errors, time to do a task, number of prompts, minutes of attention.  You get the idea.
  • This type of documentation may feel foreign at first if this is not what you are used to, however insurance and governing agencies are becoming more strict on accurate documentation.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AS WELL AS OTHERS

Take time this month not only to advocate for occupational therapy, but to celebrate each other for the fabulous work we do!  Share stories of success, funny moments, learning opportunities, and resounding failures.  Every time I think I have heard or seen it all in my thirty years practicing, a new surprise or hilarious moment comes my way!  Someone should publish a book or page about all of the funny things people say during a therapy session. 

This profession is rewarding but also very tough.  Burnout is common among health professionals. In fact, caregiver stress and burnout applies to many therapy professionals! If you can’t find a moment of levity, it will break you.  

While this post is highlighting the occupational therapy match it cards, take time to reflect about what great work you are doing, spread the word about OT, and practice your own self care.

Free Match IT Game for OTs

Want to add this resource to your therapy toolbox so you can help kids thrive? Enter your email into the form below to access this printable tool.

This resource is just one of the many tools available in The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Each month, members get instant access to downloadable activities, handouts, worksheets, and printable tools to support development. Members can log into their dashboard and access all of our free downloads in one place. Plus, you’ll find exclusive materials and premium level materials.

Level 1 members gain instant access to all of the downloads available on the site, without enter your email each time PLUS exclusive new resources each month.

Level 2 members get access to all of our downloads, exclusive new resources each month, PLUS additional, premium content each month: therapy kits, screening tools, games, therapy packets, and much more. AND, level 2 members get ad-free content across the entire OT Toolbox website.

Join the Member’s Club today!

Free Occupational Therapy Spot It Game

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    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.

    Spring Visual Perception Activities

    Spring themed visual perception activities for kids

    Have you been following along with the Spring Occupational Therapy activities this week? All week long we’re covering various aspects of development and function with fun and creative spring-themed ideas. Today you’ll find Spring Visual Perception Activities. These are ways to promote visual perceptual skill development and the visual components that are needed for skills like reading, writing, and functional tasks.

    Spring Visual Perception Activities

     
    Working on visual perceptual skills in kids to help with handwriting, reading, or other skills? These spring themed visual perception activities will help.

    If you missed the other posts this week, you can check them out here:

    For a more exhaustive set of strategies, activities, and ideas, be sure to grab the Spring Fine Motor Kit (PLUS bonus kit which covers everything you need for Spring Break) that is on sale now for just $10. You’ll be loaded up on all kinds of tools that will last all season long.

    Each Spring theme includes activity ideas. To see all of the posts from this week (and to see what we’re coving tomorrow), head over to our Spring Occupational Therapy Activities page.

    For more creative strategies and ideas to use in therapy this time of year, you will want to grab the Spring Fine Motor Kit that includes our Spring Occupational Therapy Activities Packet. It’s loaded with tools and ideas to put into place in therapy sessions starting today. 

    For OT Toolbox readers and newsletter subscribers, you can access both of these materials in our Spring Fine Motor Kit DEAL which includes the bonus materials at the time of your purchase.

    Use the ideas in fine motor or gross motor warm-ups, or add them to a home program. You’ll find more visual perceptual activities and worksheets that can be used over and over again. You’ll also find handwriting prompts in list form so you can really focus on things like letter formation, spacing, and line use in short writing tasks. You’ll love the Spring themed brain break cards that can be used in the classroom or at home.

    Grab the Spring Occupational Therapy Activities Packet and bonus Spring Break Kit here.

    Working on visual perceptual skills in kids to help with handwriting, reading, or other skills? These spring themed visual perception activities will help.

     

    Spring Visual Perception Activities

    When we breakdown the term “visual perception”, you will see that there are many sub-areas that are needed for functional skills like reading, handwriting, spelling, coordination, and many functional tasks.

    Below, you’ll find an explanation of visual perceptual skills that impact function, as well as Spring-themed activities to help improve these areas.  

    Read more about how visual perception impacts handwriting here.  

    Visual Perceptual Skills

    Visual Memory- This visual perceptual skill allows us to store information that we see and use that information for future use. In order to recall visual information, we need visual attention.

    The selection and perception of visual input requires that information is perceived via the eye’s visual fields, and in coordination with oculomotor control, is processed through the visual cortex in the brain. This is how visual processing happens.

    Visual memory allows for discrimination of details of such things as letter discrimination, sight word identification, etc.  

    Spring Visual Memory Activities-

    • Use different colored plastic eggs or other items such as mini erasers. Put them in a series of three and show the student. You can then cover up the objects and then ask the student to replicate that series.
    • Create a Spring Memory game. Use pictures or stickers of flowers, chicks, bunnies, caterpillars, butterflies, etc. to create a DIY Memory game.
    • What’s Missing Game- Use those mini erasers from a dollar store to create a What’s Missing Game. Place a handful of erasers on a tray. Allow the child to memorize the items. Then cover them and remove one or more. The child needs to recall and identify the missing items.
    • Spring Memory Game (Free download)– print off this free printable and play memory games with a Spring theme.

    Visual Discrimination- This visual perceptual skill allows us to identify the features of a form/object/letter/number so we can tell the difference between objects.

    Using visual discrimination, we can identify similarities and differences related to the objects and use that information in conjunction with visual memory.  

    Spring Visual Discrimination Activities- 

    • Cut a spring picture or card into pieces. Kids can position the pieces to recreate the whole picture. Make this activity easier or more difficult as needed by the child.
    • Use a packet of spring stickers. Many times there are several sheets that contain the same stickers. Use them to make small cards. Mix up all of the cards and ask the child to find the matches.

    Form Constancy- This visual perceptual skill allows for recognition of objects in various environments or with attention to details and orientation.

    This allows us to recognize letters or numbers no matter their font or size.  

    Spring Form Constancy Activities-

    • Write lists of spring words on index cards in different sizes or fonts, or upper case/lower case letters. Hide the cards around the room. The child can look at one card and go off to find the matching font and word.
    • Using plastic eggs, draw shapes that are similar in form, but are different sizes on each half of the egg. Then, mix up the eggs and as the child to find matches and put them together.

    Visual Closure- This visual perceptual skill enables the identification of objects or forms and allows us to identify an object by viewing just a portion and using mental skills to complete the object’s form in our mind.

    Visual closure is a skill necessary for reading and recognizing words by viewing just the beginning letters. Visual closure is related to and requires visual memory and visual attention.

    Spring Visual Closure Activities- 

    • Gather several Spring-themed items such as small animal figures, flowers, cookie cutters, plastic eggs, etc. Place them on a tray and cover half of the items. Ask the child to name each item without seeing the whole object.
    • Make an “I Spy” Frame- Cut a hole or rectangle in an index card. Place it over a spring picture or item. Ask the child to name the object or item by seeing only a portion.

    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.

    Spring Visual-Figure Ground Activities-

    • Use small items such as mini-erasers of various shapes like bunnies, carrots, and flowers. Spread them out on a table in a pile. Ask the student to sort the like shapes into piles.
    • Go on an “I Spy” nature walk and look for signs of Spring.
    • Flip through a catalogue or grocery flier to find specific items on a list. These can be items needed for a Spring event like Mother’s Day or Easter, or items needed for a recipe. 

    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.

    Spring Visual Sequential Memory Activities- 

    • Make an order of three or more items like three flowers. Ask the student to memorize the order and then to replicate it.
    • Talk about the steps to complete a task such as planting a flower seed. Write out or draw the steps. Cut the paper so the steps are separated. Mix up the order by spreading the various steps on a table surface. Ask the student to place them back into order. 

    More Spring Visual Perception Activities

    Spring Fine Motor Kit

    Score Fine Motor Tools and resources and help kids build the skills they need to thrive!

    Developing hand strength, dexterity, dexterity, precision skills, and eye-hand coordination skills that kids need for holding and writing with a pencil, coloring, and manipulating small objects in every day task doesn’t need to be difficult. The Spring Fine Motor Kit includes 100 pages of fine motor activities, worksheets, crafts, and more:

    Spring fine motor kit set of printable fine motor skills worksheets for kids.
    • Lacing cards
    • Sensory bin cards
    • Hole punch activities
    • Pencil control worksheets
    • Play dough mats
    • Write the Room cards
    • Modified paper
    • Sticker activities
    • MUCH MORE

    Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

    Spring Fine Motor Kit
    Spring Fine Motor Kit: TONS of resources and tools to build stronger hands.

    Grab your copy of the Spring Fine Motor Kit and build coordination, strength, and endurance in fun and creative activities. Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

    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.

    Spring Occupational Therapy Activities

    Spring occupational therapy activities

    There might just be a turn in the weather! Spring therapy takes on a whole new meaning with these Spring occupational therapy activities! With a new season comes a new set of OT activities for the school-based occupational therapist or the OT working in early intervention or an outpatient clinic. I’m excited to share an update to our Spring Occupational Therapy packet that now has a TON of therapy tools and Spring activities to develop various skills like fine  motor, gross motor, visual perceptual, handwriting, sensory tolerance and play, and more.

    Use these Spring OT ideas in everyday play!

    If you are specifically looking for SPRING CRAFTS that support occupational therapy goals, we have that, too!

    Spring occupational therapy activities for helping kids develop skills, in school based OT, early intervention, and at home.


    Spring Occupational Therapy Activities

    Looking for fun ways to add a creative spin to therapy sessions this time of year? You’re in luck! This week on The OT Toolbox, you’ll find loads of Spring activities. Each day, we’re rounding up activities, ideas, strategies, and tips that all have a Spring theme in common. Use these activities in your therapy plans to meet the specific needs of kiddos. 

    You’ll find tons of activity ideas in our Spring Fine Motor Kit, too.

    Here’s what you can find when it comes to Spring Occupational Therapy activities here on The OT Toolbox:

    Spring Fine Motor Activities– Spring crafts, spring fine motor precision activities, sorting insects, mixing colors, and beading rainbows! These Spring fine motor activities develop hand strength, coordination, pincer grasp, and a functional pencil grasp!

    Spring Gross Motor Activities – Work on balance, coordination, core strength, and motor planning skills with these gross motor activities for Spring. Kids will love the therapy slide decks that challenge skills (great for pediatric physical therapy, too!)

    You’ll love the Spring balance beams, sequencing activities, and more (with shoulder stability, balance, coordination, and core strengthening activities at the focus!)

    Spring Sensory Activities– these Spring sensory play ideas include sensory bins and heavy work activities that are great for sensory diets. While you’re at it, be sure to grab these Spring OT tools:

    • Spring Sensory Stations– great for building a sensory walk with a Spring theme
    • Outdoor Sensory Diets– so much information about supporting sensory needs through being outdoors.
    • Sensory Garden– Create a sensory garden on a large scale or small scale to support sensory needs through gardening this Spring.

    Spring Visual Perception Activities– Use these Spring OT ideas to support visual perceptual skills like visual discrimination, visual closure, form constancy, figure ground, and other visual motor skills with a Spring theme.

    Spring Handwriting Activities– School based OTs will love these handwriting occupational therapy ideas to support legibility, functional pencil grasp, writing on lines, and letter formation.

    So, be sure to check out each link above to load up on creative ways to promote healthy development of kids!

    Use these Spring Occupational Therapy activities to promote skills like fine motor work, gross motor skills, bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination, and more, all with a spring theme!

     

    Working on occupatioanl therapy goals? Here are OT activities designed to use a spring theme for fine motor skills, gross motor skills, handwriting, visual motor skills, sensory processing, bilateral coordination, and more.



    There’s more…
    This time of year, one of our more popular products here on The OT Toolbox is our Spring Fine Motor Kit!

    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.

    Valentine’s day activity sheet

    valentine's day activity sheets

    In today’s free printable the Valentine’s Day Activity Sheet, all the Valentine stuff is certainly mixed up!  This set of Valentines pencil control scanning worksheets combines visual motor and visual perceptual skills in several different PDF forms to delight and entertain even the most picky learner! Add this resource to your Valentine’s Day occupational therapy activities.

    Valentine's Day activity sheets to work on visual perceptual skills

    Valentine’s Day Activity Sheet

    Add this hearts and roses worksheet to your therapy line-up. This is such a fun time of year to add creative resources like the Valentine activity sheet described below. It may even become a new Valentine tradition!

    Do you have any Valentine’s traditions? Maybe making handmade valentines, baking cookies, or going out to a favorite restaurant.  Sometimes traditions are purposeful, while other times they just happen. If something “works” one year, it tends to become a tradition whether you want it to or not.  There are expectations in motion, or maybe just lack of creativity.  Hey, she liked it last year, let me do it again for 25 years.

    For at least fifteen years I received a box of Russell St****rs chocolates for Valentine’s day.  I am not a fan of this kind of chocolate.  I probably faked enthusiasm the first year, thus starting a tradition.  In short, traditions are ok, but it is also awesome to mix things up a little!

    Before looking at the Valentine’s Day Activity Worksheets, we need to understand:

    What is visual perception and why is it important? 

    Visual perception is being able to look at something and make sense of it.  Items have to be “perceived” in the correct way for motor output, reading, following directions, self care, and just about everything we do. That jacket that is inside out?  It takes more than just fine motor skills to right it.  The eyes and brain need to “see” that the jacket is inside out, where the problem stems from, then use motor skills to correct it. 

    Check out this article from the Vision Learning Center about breaking down visual perceptual skills.

    While righting jackets and reading are not the most enticing tasks for developing visual perceptual skills, Valentine Printable Scanning Sheets are!

    Better yet, to avoid having to submit your email address each time, consider becoming a member of the OT Toolbox! Membership has it’s perks. As a member you will not only be able to find every single one of the free printables offered on The OT Toolbox, but you’ll:

    • Be able to download each of them with a single click (No more re-entering your email address and searching through folders!)
    • Receive early access to new printables and activities before they’re added to the website (You’ll find these in the What’s New section.)
    • Receive a 20% discount on all purchases made in the The OT Toolbox shop!

    Valentine’s Day Activity Sheet for Visual Perception

    This great bundle of free visual scanning/pencil control printables works on several different visual perceptual skills:

    • Visual memory – remembering what was seen long enough to find it somewhere else
    • Visual scanning – being able to look at all of the choices (either in random or sequential order)
    • Visual form constancy – looking at items that might be slightly different or in a different position and recognizing they are the same figure

    four more visual perceptual skills

    We use these to make sense of what is seen.  Can you think of examples of activities or everyday tasks that require these skills?

    • Visual figure ground – picking out items from competing backgrounds
    • Visual spatial relations – identify items in relation to other items. What is in front, next to, behind
    • Visual closure – making sense of an item when only given part of it, such as doing a puzzle
    • Visual discrimination – the ability to idenfity differences between objects which may be obvious or subtle

    When thinking about figure ground, picture looking for an item in the refrigerator.  This skill requires being able to perceive or “see” the item among a forest of other items.  Visual spatial relations may be looking at pictures to determine what is in the foreground and what is in the background, or how far something is.  There are a lot of pictures and games that trick the mind’s eye into thinking it is seeing something else.  The brain has to work extra hard to decipher these.

    In case you missed it, Colleen Beck posted a great article on visual perception:

    Some people have amazing visual perceptual skills, while others really struggle. I have mentioned before, there is a gender divide when it comes to visual perceptual skills.  Males were designed to hunt/gather/protect, therefore their eyes do not perceive subtle differences.  Do not despair!  These can be taught, or at least compensated for.  

    Knowing that visual perceptual skills can be a weakness for many, it is important to address these difficulties early, and train the brain to recognize the difference between objects, be able to find things, and solve puzzles.  Learners who struggle with anything, are going to be less likely to want to do something that is challenging.  Make it fun!  Get puzzles that have the theme your learner gravitates toward. The OT Toolbox has a great Valentines Day Fine Motor bundle to add to your theme. Use food or other motivating items to teach these skills.

    While I tend to discourage more electronic use than is already imposed on young minds, here are a couple of fun examples of online games that are motivating AND build visual perception from the Sensory Toolbox.

    As always, there are a dozen ways to adapt and modify these Valentines Day Activity Sheets to meet the needs of most of your learners.  

    This Valentine scanning pencil control worksheet is no exception:

    • 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 items, describe their characteristics, and give context clues to help your learner understand why certain pictures match
    • Copy some of these designs to add to the visual motor element
    • Try different writing utensils. This is not only motivating, but some learners work better with markers as they glide easier on paper. Did you know that golf sized pencils promote more of a tripod grasp than traditional long pencils? Try having your learner color with one inch crayons to enhance their grasp
    • Enlarge the task for beginning writers who need more writing space
    • Shrink the task for older learners who need to learn to write smaller
    • Velcro the back of the Valentine items, after laminating and cutting them,  to create a matching game
    • Have students write on a slant board, lie prone on the floor with the page in front to build shoulder stability, or supine with the page taped under the table
    • Project this page onto a smart board for students to come to the board and write in big lines
    • More or less prompting may be needed to grade activity to make it easier or harder
    • Make this part of a larger lesson plan including gross motor, sensory, social, executive function, or other fine motor skills
    • Don’t miss this great post on Valentine’s Day Activities, including Valentine’s Day Playdough, and a Valentine’s Day Shredded Paper Sensory Bin

    Besides visual perception and/or writing, what else is being addressed using this Valentine’s scanning, pencil control printable?

    • Fine motor – grasping pattern, wrist stability, intrinsic hand muscle development, pencil control
    • Bilateral coordination – hand dominance, using “helper hand”, crossing midline
    • Proprioception – pressure on paper, grip on writing tool
    • Strength – shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, core, head control
    • Visual perception – scanning, figure ground, line placement, crossing midline, visual closure, seeing parts to whole
    • Executive function/behavior – following directions, attention, focus, sequencing, planning, task completion, frustration tolerance
    • Social function – working together in a group, problem solving, sharing materials and space, turn taking, talking about the activity

    It can be very frustrating if you have excellent visual perceptual skills and other people do not “see” the world as you do. Take comfort in the fact that these skills can be learned with a little bit of effort.  Until then, make sure the Ketchup is always on the same shelf, and the clothing is never inside out!

    Free Valentine’s Day Activity Sheet

    Just submit your email address to be able to download this FREE Valentine’s Day Activity Sheet.

    FREE Valentine’s Day Activity Sheets

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      Superior visual perceptual skills here! – Victoria Wood, OTR/L

      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.

      **The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for readability, however this information is relevant for students, patients, clients, children of all ages and stages or whomever could benefit from these resources. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.

      Looking for more pencil control activities?  Look no further:

      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 and use that visual information to create responses or react with 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

      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.

      Christmas I Spy

      Free Christmas I Spy worksheet

      Are you looking for a quick and easy activity to address the components of visual perception that you can also use to address numeral formation this holiday season?  This Christmas I Spy is a fun activity that can be used in a variety of ways to target the skills your students need including visual perception and numeral formation. Add this I Spy printable to your occupational therapy Christmas ideas!

      Use this printable Christmas I Spy worksheet for a party activity or in Christmas occupational therapy activities!

      Christmas I Spy

      It’s the busiest time of the year and this Christmas I Spy is a no prep printable you can take from the printer right to your therapy sessions with your students.  The best part of this worksheet is that it can target so many skills at once! 

      Some of the skills addressed with Christmas I Spy will target the components of visual perceptual skills.  Visual perceptual skills are foundational to reading and writing.  There are many components of visual perception that play a role in our student’s performance at school, but this activity primarily addresses visual discrimination and visual memory.  

      You can begin using this worksheet with your students by asking them to name some of the pictures they see on the page.  Then, focus their attention to the bottom of the page to the pictures they will look for during the activity. 

      Support Visual Skills with a Christmas I Spy

      Using their visual discrimination skills, ask your students to identify each of the pictures at the bottom.  Encourage your students to use a different color for each picture they find.  This is a strategy you can teach them to support their visual discrimination skills.  The students can circle each picture working on their fine motor dexterity skills or they could color each small picture.

      This activity is also great for addressing visual memory.  Visual memory is the ability to retain and recall visual information.  Visual memory is essential in reading and writing, but it is also important for completing tasks like Christmas I Spy in an efficient way.  

      As the students begin to work, they will be using their visual memory and scanning skills together to recall where they have seen each picture.  

      Visual scanning is also an important skill that will be addressed with Christmas I Spy.  Visual scanning is a function of the oculomotor system that involves using the eyes in a coordinated way to scan the environment for information. 

      For students who may have difficulty with visual scanning, try teaching strategies such as moving a ruler down the page as they track across, encourage them to scan in an organized manner from left to right, or you can reduce the demand by asking “can you find 3 candy canes”, for example. 

      Another way to support students who may have difficulty with visual perceptual tasks such as I Spy, would be to take turns finding the different pictures.  Not only would this take away some of the demand for struggling students, but it would also allow you to model visual scanning skills at the same time.  

      Work on Number formation with a Christmas I Spy Activity

      Finally, Christmas I Spy provides your students with an opportunity to address number formation.  After they find and color each picture, they will need to write the number in the box. 

      Here is a place where you can take this pencil/paper task and make it a kinesthetic learning experience for your students!  Many students need kinesthetic learning experiences or the opportunity to touch, move, and feel in order to learn. 

      Occupational therapists are uniquely trained to provide these types of kinesthetic learning experiences to students.  You will find that when you design an intervention to include a sensory, tactile, or movement experience, your students will be instantly engaged.  Engagement and participation are the keys to learning!

      More ways to use this Christmas I Spy Printable

      You could extend this activity to include a kinesthetic component by: 

      • Forming the numbers using gingerbread scented playdough.  Here is a link make your own from Learning4Kids – Gingerbread Scented Playdough Recipe
      • If snow is more your style, try this snow dough recipe from A Spotted Pony – Snow Dough Recipe
      • And for an even more sensory experience try Candy Cane Play Dough from kidsactivitiesblog.com
      • Hot Chocolate Playdough is another fun sensory idea from The Simple Parent
      • Bend red and white “candy cane” pipe cleaners into the numbers your students need to practice
      • Use sand trays to practice numeral formation.  Use red and green sand to stick with the holiday theme or get inspired to use other materials/textures from ideas here: Writing Trays for Handwriting
      • Practice writing numbers in shaving cream.  Add a little silver glitter to mimic snow.

      So, grab your hot cocoa and hit print on Christmas I Spy! You will have so much fun with your students this holiday season while working on important visual perceptual and numeral formation skills!

      FREE Christmas
      I Spy Worksheet

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        Katherine Cook is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience primarily working in schools with students from preschool through Grade 12.  Katherine graduated from Boston University in 2001 and completed her Master’s degree and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study at Tufts University in 2010.  Katherine’s school based experience includes working in integrated preschool programs, supporting students in the inclusion setting, as well as program development and providing consultation to students in substantially separate programs.  Katherine has a passion for fostering the play skills of children and supporting their occupations in school. 

        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 
        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.

        Spatial Awareness Toys and Activities

        spatial awareness toys

        For kids that struggle with body awareness, position-in-space, and overall spatial understanding, spatial awareness toys are fun ways to develop a specific set of skills that impact function of every day tasks. Want to help kids become more aware of their body position, the space that they need to function, write, and perform tasks through play? Here we are talking spatial awareness toys!

        Let’s talk toys to support spatial awareness skills.

        Spatial awareness toys and spatial awareness games to develop visual spatial skills.

        Spatial Awareness Toys

        In this post, we’ll cover a few different things:

        • Spatial Awareness Definition
        • Spatial awareness activities
        • An easy spatial awareness tool for handwriting
        • Spatial awareness toys

        Kids are often motivated by play as a means to support development of skills. When games and toys develop skills in which they struggle, it can be meaningful and engaging for the child. They may not even realize they are developing those skill areas through play. Before we get to the toy ideas, let’s go over spatial awareness in more detail.

        Spatial Awareness Definition

        First, let’s cover the definition of spatial awareness. You might be thinking…ok, I know a child who might be having issues with awareness of space during functional tasks… But exactly what is spatial awareness?

        The definition of Spatial Awareness is being aware of oneself in space. Incorporating body awareness, visual spatial skills, and orientation, spatial awareness involves positioning oneself and/or functional items (pencil, a ball, a bag of groceries, etc.) in relation to oneself and the world around.

        Spatial awareness means several things:

        • Awareness of spatial concepts can look like reaching for items without overshooting or missing the object.
        • It can mean use of a map to navigate streets or a new middle school.
        • It can incorporate spacing between letters and words in handwriting.
        • It can mean navigating a crowded hallway while carrying a backpack and a stack of papers.

        Being able to reason about the space around us, and how to manipulate objects in space, is a critical part of everyday life and everyday functional tasks. This specific skill allows us to safely cross a street, fold clothing, load the dishwasher, place objects in a locker, put together a piece of “some assembly required” furniture, and other functional cognitive tasks. And these skills are especially important for educational success in particular handwriting tasks, math, STEM, and science.

        Most of us realize as we walk through a doorway that we need to space ourselves through the middle of the door.  Those with poor visual spatial skills may walk to closely to the sides and bump the wall.

        Visual-spatial skills are used when a middle school or high school student uses a map to navigate a new school. Orienting yourself on the map and then relating that to the real world to make turns, movements in a large space takes a complex set of skills guided by visual spatial relations.

        Spatial awareness skills also involve the fine motor tasks of coordinating handwriting with writing in spaces allowed on paper, placing letters within an area (lines), and forming letters in the correct direction.  

        So what is spatial awareness? Let’s break it down even further…

        Spatial awareness and spatial perception

        Spatial Awareness can be broken into three areas, specifically related to spatial perception: position in space, depth perception, and topographical orientation.

        1. Position in Space– where an object is in space in relation to yourself and others. This skill includes awareness of the way an object is oriented or turned.  It is an important concept in directional language such as in, out, up, down, in front of, behind, between, left, and right. Children with problems with this skill area will demonstrate difficulty planning actions in relation to objects around them.  They may write letter reversals after second grade.  They typically show problems with spacing letters and words on a paper.  
        2. Depth Perception– Distances between a person and objects.  This ability helps us move in space. Grasping for a ball requires realizing where the ball is in relation to ourselves.  Kids with deficits in this area may have trouble catching a ball or walking/running/jumping over an obstacle. Copying words from a vertical plane onto a horizontal plane may be difficult and they will have trouble copying from a blackboard. 
        3. Topographical Orientation– Location of objects in an environment, including obstacles and execution of travel in an area.  Kids with difficulties in this area may become lost easily or have difficulties finding their classroom after a bathroom break.

        Visual Spatial Skills develop from an awareness of movements of the body.  If a child has true visual spatial skills, they will likely demonstrate difficulties with athletic performance, coordination, and balance.  They may appear clumsy, reverse letters and numbers in handwriting, and may tend to write from right to left across a page.  They will have difficulty placing letters on lines, forming letters correctly, and forming letters with appropriate size.   

        When kids struggle with the ability to perceive where they are in space…when children are challenged to identify how much room they need to navigate the world around them…These are all examples of spatial awareness skills.

        What is spatial awareness and how does it relate to handwriting

        Visual Perception and spatial awareness in kids.  What is Spatial awareness and why do kids have trouble with spacing between letters and words, reversing letters, and all things vision.  Great tips here from an Occupational Therapist, including tips and tools to help kids with spacing in handwriting.
        Letter size and use of margins also fall under the term “spatial awareness”. Use these spacing tool ideas to support spatial awareness in handwriting.
        What is spatial awareness?  Tips and tools for handwriting, reading, scissors, and all functional skills in kids and adults, from an Occupational Therapist.
        Visual Perception and spatial awareness in kids.  What is Spatial awareness and why do kids have trouble with spacing between letters and words, reversing letters, and all things vision.  Great tips here from an Occupational Therapist, including tips and tools to help kids with spacing in handwriting.
        You can use a spacing tool to support spatial awareness skills in kids.

        visual spatial relations activities

        Addressing spatial awareness can occur with a handwriting spacing tool like the one we made, but other spacing activities can help with visual spatial relations, too. Try some of these activities:

        • Create an obstacle course using couch cushions, chairs, blankets, pillows, and other items in the house.
        • Try this activity for teaching over, under, around, and through with pretend play.
        • Create a paper obstacle course.  Draw obstacles on paper and have your child make his /her pencil go through the obstacles.  Draw circles, holes, mud pits, and mountains for them to draw lines as their pencil “climbs”, “jumps”, “rolls”, and even erases!
        • Write words and letters on graph paper.  The lines will work as a guide and also a good spacing activity.
        • Use stickers placed along the right margin of  to cue the student that they are nearing the edge of paper when writing.  
        • Highlight writing lines on worksheets.
        • Draw boxes for words on worksheets for them to write within.
        • Play Simon Says
        • Practice directions.  Draw arrows on a paper pointing up, down, left, and right.  Ask your child to point to the direction the arrow is pointing.  Then have them say the direction the arrows are pointing.  Then create actions for each arrow.  Up may be jumping. Down may be squatting. The Left arrow might be side sliding to the left, and the Right arrow might be a right high kick. Next, draw more rows of arrows in random order.  Ask your child to go through the motions and try to go faster and faster.

        spatial awareness Activities  

        For more multisensory learning and hands-on play incorporating the development of spatial awareness skills, visit these blog posts:

        Spatial Awareness Toys

        This post contains affiliate links.

        Looking for more tools to improve visual spatial awareness?  The toy ideas 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 spacing 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 spatial awareness ideas!

        Spatial awareness toys and spatial awareness games for kids

        Practice spatial awareness with this Pull The String Board Game
        threading toy. Kids can use a unique pen to create lined designs and come away with a project they made on their own…while working on spacing. 

          When working on spatial awareness in handwriting, kids can count the number of holes in the pegboard in this Quercetti Tecno Building Toy. Copy instructions to build 3D structures while working on spacing of pieces and awareness of details in this fun engineering toy. 

        Mini erasers as a spacing tool. Kids can write while keeping the small eraser on their desk. When they space out words, use the eraser as a measuring tool, just like our button buddy. You can also encourage them to finish their writing task and then go back and check over their work for spatial concepts with the eraser. 

        Practice spatial awareness of the edges of the page by using a Clear Rulers. Kids can place the ruler along the edge of the paper to know when to stop writing and to use as a visual cue. Sometimes kids try to squish a word in at the end of a line when there is not enough room. Line the ruler up along the edge and as they write, they can see that they are nearing the edge of the paper.     

        Use a highlighter to draw dots between each word, to provide a visual cue for spacing between words. You can also draw a line along the edge of the paper for a visual cue that the child is nearing the edge of the paper. 

        Wooden Building Blocks Sets are powerful ways to support spatial awareness development.

        Spatial Awareness Games

        One study found that children who play frequently with puzzles, construction, and board games tend to have better spatial reasoning ability. 

        To get the whole family in on a spatial reasoning game while working on placement of pieces, try IQ Twist for a game of logic as you place pieces in this puzzle.

        This related IQ Arrows game develops spatial relations but is great for adding to an occupational therapy bag. Use the arrows in play dough to work on directionality with heavy work through the hands. Make mini fine motor obstacle courses and other spatial relations activities on a smaller scale.

        Kanoodle works on pattern recognition, spatial reasoning, and is a great way to practice spacing needed in handwriting.   

        A toy like a geoboard allows a child to copy forms while counting out spaces of pegs. Try these Geoboards.

        Here are more spatial awareness games and specifically spatial reasoning games:

        Toys for Body in Space Awareness

        These toys specifically address body awareness and directional awareness to help with overall spatial awareness development. Position in space impacts functioning in daily tasks at home and in the community. This plays a part in social emotional development and overall confidence as well. When a child feels confident in their body in space awareness, they can navigate the world around them with ease.

        And, in regards to handwriting, sometimes, spacing problems on paper have to do with difficulties with directional awareness.

        Use Arrows to start at the basics and practice naming left/write/top/bottom. Use them in whole-body movement activities where the child copies motions based on the arrow placement. Watch to make sure kids are not over stepping their allotted space. 

        Use Wikki Stix for spacing on paper with physical cues for margins and spacing. Use the wikki sticks to space between words and a “ball” of the wikki stick to space between words.

        Position in Space Toys

        What is spatial awareness? Use these activity suggestions from an occupational therapist.

        More 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

        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.