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


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    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 Motor Planning

    motor planning

    You may have heard the term motor planning but wondered what this means and what does it look like to utilize motor planning skills in everyday activities. Here, we are breaking down this important motor skills topic. Occupational therapists are skilled at analyzing movements and underlying skills needed to perform the things we do each day, or the tasks that occupy our time, and establishing an efficient and coordinated motor plan is one of the main aspects of this assessment. 

    Motor planning

    Motor Planning

    When we perform an action, there are movements of our bones, joints, and muscles that enable our bodies to move. It’s through this movement that the body and brain receives feedback, or a motor concept that tells the brain and body that we have moved in a certain way in order to accomplish a specific action. This is the motor plan for that particular task at work!

    Let’s look at a child’s motor skills in a specific action to really explore this concept. 

    Ok, so you’re walking along a hallway with an armful of bags and see a ball in your path. You walk around it and continue walking. But, hold on. That was a pretty cool ball. It was all red and shiny. It looked like a really fun ball to bounce. You stop, turn around, walk back to the ball, stoop down, put down your bags, and pick it up. Woah. It’s not only red and shiny, but it’s a little heavy too. 

    It takes a bit more muscle oomph than you were expecting. You hold your arm up high, with the ball up over your head. Totally not a baseball player’s pose, but all awkward and kid-like. You know. Pure fun throwing. 

    You toss that red, shiny, heavy ball as hard as you can towards a big old blank wall on one of the hallway walls. Now watch out! That red, shiny, heavy ball is bouncing around like crazy! 

    It’s bouncing off of the wall and right back at you! You jump to the side and then to the left and right as it bounces back and forth between the walls of that hallway. You have to skip to the side to avoid your bags. 

    The ball stops bouncing and rolls to the side of the hall. 

    Well, that was fun. You pick up the ball and hold it while you gather your bags. Now, you see a boy coming down the hall who sees that red, shiny, heavy ball in your hand and says, “Hey! There’s my ball!” You smile and toss the ball as he reaches out his hand and catches. “Thanks!!” he says as you wave and start walking down the hall again.

    What is Motor Planning? Tips and Tools in this post with a fun fine motor motor planning (dyspraxia) activity for kids and adults from an Occupational Therapist

    What is Motor Planning?

    Motor Planning happens with everything we do! From walking around objects in our path, to picking up items, to aiming and throwing, drawing, writing, getting dressed, and even dodging red bouncy balls…

    Motor Planning is defined as the problem solving and moving over, under, and around requires fine motor and gross motor skills and planning to plan out, organize, and carry out an action. We must organize incoming information, including sensory input, and integrate that information into our plan. We need to determine if a ball is heavy or light to pick up and hold it without dropping it.

    You might hear of motor planning referred to as praxis. 

    Praxis (generally also known as Motor Planning, but also it’s more than simply motor planning…) requires observing and understanding the task (ideation), planning out an action in response to the task (organization), and the act of carrying out the task (execution). A difficulty with any of these areas will lead to dyspraxia in many skill areas. 

    Praxis includes motor planning, but also involved is ideation, execution, and feedback, with adjustment to that feedback. You can see the similarities in motor planning, which refers to the conscious and subconscious (ingrained) motor actions or plans.

    Motor Planning is needed for everyday tasks. Think about the everyday activities that you complete day in and day out. Each of these actions requires a movement, or a series of movements to complete. There are both gross motor movements, fine motor movements, and posture all working together in a coordinated manner.

    There is a motor plan for actions such as:

    • using a toothbrush to brush one’s teeth
    • brushing hair
    • getting dressed
    • putting on a backpack
    • walking down a hallway
    • walking up steps
    • walking down steps
    • holding a pencil
    • writing with a pencil (motor planning and handwriting is discussed here.)
    • riding a bike
    • maintaining posture
    • putting on a coat or jacket (on top of other clothing such as a shirt so that in this case, there isn’t the tactile feedback available of the fabric directly on the skin’s surface)
    • performing sports actions such as swinging a baseball bat or tennis racket, running, or gymnastics like doing a cartwheel

    The interesting thing is that a movement plan, or the physical action that is completed whether the action has been performed in the past or if it is a new movement. A motor plan for a new task can be completed without thinking through how to move the body because it is just inherently completed.

    When we complete unfamiliar tasks and need to stop and think through how the body needs to move, is when we see inefficient movement, or motor planning issues.

    Motor Planning Difficulties

    Above, we talked about praxis as another term or way to name the motor plan concept. When there are difficulties with motor planning, we are referring to the opposite of praxis, or dyspraxia. 

     Dyspraxia can be a result of poor sensory integration, visual difficulties, fine motor and gross motor coordination and ability, neural processing, and many other areas.

    Motor planning difficulties can look like several things:

    • Difficult ability to complete physical tasks
    • Small steps
    • Slow speed
    • Pausing to think through actions
    • Clumsiness
    • Poor coordination
    • Weakness

    These challenges with motor function can exist with either new motor tasks or familiar actions. Deficits are apparent when speed is reduced so that the functional task isn’t efficient, when the motor task is unsafe, or poor completion of the task at hand.

    There are diagnoses that have poor motor planning as a component of the diagnosis. Some of these disorders can include:

    When motor planning difficulties exist, this can be a cause for other considerations related to movements, and demonstration of difficulties when participating in movement-based activities:

    • challenges in social interactions
    • anxiety
    • behaviors
    • social skills issues

    Today, I’ve got a quick and easy fine motor activity to work on motor planning with kids. This activity is part of our 31 Days of Occupational Therapy series where we’re sharing fun and frugal ideas for treatment of many OT skill areas with items you might already have in your house.

    motor planning activity

    Motor Planning Activity

    Affiliate links are included in this post. 

    Motor planning activity

    To make this motor planning activity, you’ll need just a few items: 

    • a clear plastic baggie
    • white crafting pom poms
    • one red pom pom. These are items we had in our crafting supplies, but you could modify this activity to use items you have. Other ideas might be beads, pin pong balls, ice cubes, or any small item.
    1. Fill the baggie with the pom poms and squeeze out the air. 
    2. Seal the baggie.
    3. Use a permanent marker to draw on a maze from one side of the baggie to the other. You can make this as complex as you like. 
    4. Add additional mazes, or two different pom pom colors for the maze. Work the red pom pom from one end of the maze to the other.
    Apraxia activity

    Squeezing the pom pom is a fine motor work out for the hands. You’ll need to open up the thumb web space (the part of your hand between the thumb and fingers, and use those intrinsic small muscles of the hand. Both of these areas are important for fine motor tasks like coloring and writing.

    Use this motor planning exercise as a warm-up activity before writing, coloring, and scissor activities. This is a great activity to have on hand in your therapy treatment bag or to pull out while waiting at the doctor’s office.

    Motor planning toys and games

    Motor Planning Activities

    Looking for more ways to work on dyspraxia with your kids? These are some fun fine and gross motor activities that are fun and creative. 

    The best thing about all of them is that they are open-ended. Use them in obstacle courses or in movement tasks to incorporate many skill areas. These are some fun ideas to save for gift ideas. Now which to get first…

    Work on fine motor dexterity and bilateral coordination while encouraging motor planning as the child matches colors of the nuts and bolts in this Jumbo Nuts and Bolts Set with Backpack set. The large size is perfect for preschoolers or children with a weak hand grasp.

    Practice motor planning and eye-hand coordination. This Button Mosaic Transperent Pegboard is a powerhouse of motor planning play. Kids can copy and match big and bright cards to the pegs in this large pegboard. I love that the toy is propped up on an incline plane, allowing for an extended wrist and a tripod grasp. Matching the colors and placing the pegs into the appropriate holes of the pegboard allow for motor planning practice.

    Develop refined precision of fine motor skills with eye-hand coordination. A big and bright puzzle like this Puzzle-shaped Block Set  allows kids to work on hand-eye coordination and motor planning as they scan for pieces, match the appropriate parts of the puzzle pieces, and attempt to work the pieces into place. Building a puzzle such as this one can be a workout for kids with hand and upper extremity weakness.

    Strengthen small motor skills. Kids of all ages can work on motor planning and fine motor skills with this Grimm’s Rainbow Bowls Shape & Color Sorting Activity. Use the colored fish to place into the matching cups, as children work on eye-hand coordination. Using the tongs requires a greater level of motor planning.

    You can modify this activity by placing the cups around a room for a gross motor visual scanning and motor planning activity. Children can then follow multi-level instructions as they climb over, around, under, and through obstacles to return the fish to their matching bowls.

    Encourage more gross motor planning with hopping, jumping, and skipping, or other gross motor tasks. This Crocodile Hop A Floor Mat Game does just that. It is a great way to encourage whole body motor planning and multiple-step direction following.

    Address balance and coordination. These Gonge Riverstones Gross Motor Course challenge balance skills as children step from stone to stone. These would make a great part of many imagination play activities as children plan out motor sequences to step, cross, hop, and jump…without even realizing they are working on motor planning tasks.

    Introduce multiple-step direction following and motor planning. These colored footprints like these Gonge Feet Markers support direction following skills. Plan out a combination of fine and gross motor obstacle courses for kids to work on motor planning skills.

    Make hand-eye coordination fun with challenges. For more fine motor coordination and motor planning, kids will love this Chickyboom Balance Game as they practice fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and about balance and mathematics.

    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

    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

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      *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.

      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 décor 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.

      Writing with Both Hands-What you Need to Know

      Kids may write with both hands and have poor legibility or speed with handwriting.

      Writing with both hands is a common concern for parents, teachers, and therapists working with students on handwriting skills. Using both hands to write might look like switching hands while writing or even coloring as a result of hand weakness. But there could also be other considerations at play including mixed hand dominance or confusion on which hand to pick up the pencil and which hand holds the paper.

      You’ll definitely want to check out a related resource on more information on hand dominance and establishment of a preferred hand in functional activities.

      Writing with both hands- what’s going on

      Have you seen a child on your therapy caseload that writes with both hands? Writing with both hands can be a problem when it comes to handwriting legibility and efficiency.

      Have you ever wondered is my child a lefty or a righty? Or perhaps writing with both hands piqued your curiosity about whether or not your child is ambidextrous.

      Or been asked if they are a lefty or righty and unable to answer?

      Have you noticed that your child seems to use both hands equally when writing? If so, your child may be experiencing mixed hand dominance patterns or cross-dominance, and this is why you are not sure if they are a lefty or a righty. Writing with both hands can have implications that affect handwriting.

      Read on for information on using both hands to write writing and what you need to know about mixed-handedness.

      Writing with both hands, wondering what this means for kids in learning and writing? This has great information on mixed dominance and laterality in kids.

      Where to begin when kids write with Both Hands 

      First, it’s important to understand what is happening when a student uses both hands to write.

      Hand dominance

      Let’s discuss mixed dominance to begin. Here is more information about hand dominance and activities to promote laterality.

      What is mixed dominance and what does this mean in child development? Read more about hand dominance and writing with both hands.

      What is Mixed Dominance?

      Mixed dominance refers to when a child does not demonstrate a strong preference for either the left side or the right side of the body for completion of activities, or clearly utilizes both hands for specific sets of activities. For example, a kiddo might throw with his left hand, but write with his right hand.

      It should also be noted that children with mixed dominance often utilize both sides of the body equally, but poorly. When they fatigue, this leads to confusion with if they are left-side dominant or right-side dominant.

      When Does hand Dominance Develop?

      Dominance of one side of the body or the other is not expected until 5 years of age. Before the age of 5 years old, use of both hands is expected to a moderate degree. However, most children are showing a strong preference for one hand or the other by 3.5-4 years of age.

      Determining Mixed Dominance

      Dominance is typically determined through observation of the eyes, hands and feet and which one the child uses for task completion. For example, a child who is demonstrating mixed dominance may be right eye dominant, and left hand/foot dominant or left eye dominant, right hand dominant and left foot dominant, or any combination of these characteristics.

      Therapists may utilize the Jordan Left/Right Reversal Questionnaire or clinical observations to help them determine mixed dominance. In a vision screen, the therapist can have the child pretend to be a pirate, and see what eye they close when looking through a tube/rolled paper.

      The eye that the child closes is the non-dominant or “weak” eye and the dominant or “strong” eye is the open one. If the “strong” eye does not match the hand preference the child has been showing, this is mixed dominance in action.

      Be sure to watch this space, because tomorrow we’ll cover more about writing with both hands, ambidexterity, and mixed dominance.

      For more information on visual screening, check out our vision screening packet:




      Writing with boht hands Impacts Writing and Reading

      Children who experience mixed dominance patterns, evidenced by writing with both hands, often have challenges with left/right awareness.  This left/right confusion can impact reading and writing, as a result of delayed reading and writing skills. 

      Left Right Confusion and Handwriting

      The child that doesn’t know their left from their right side at the kindergarten to first grade stage may show challenges as they are learning letter formation.

      Poor left/right awareness can affect a student’s ability to accurately form letters and result in ‘dyslexia’ looking reversal patterns.

      The reversal patterns in letter formation and recognition may also lead to poor phonemic awareness, and later poor spelling, further delaying their reading and writing skills.

      Reading left to right may also be a significant challenge as a result of poor eye teaming, as both sides of the brain are attempting to ‘dominate’ the skill. This struggle between the two sides of the brain results in poor organization of the information and retrieval of phonemic rules. Here is more information about visual processing and the skills that impact reading and learning.

      Difficulties in these areas can be red flags of mixed dominance patterns that need to be addressed.

      Switching hands when writing means that the student holds the pencil with a different hand each time and doesn’t have the experience to create motor plans for each letter. They are looking at different angles and directions to the paper, writing  sample to copy formations, and establishing loose “muscle memory” when it comes to creating an established plan of action for letter forms. 

      Writing with different hands can impact overall organization on the paper, too. This includes use of margins, and writing in lists. Typically, when writing, we need to hold the paper with the non-dominant hand to stabilize the paper. Placing letters  

      More implications of using both hands to write

      Mixed dominance does not always seem like a big deal, but when left unaddressed your child may be left frustrated with their struggles in gross motor play, reading and writing. 

      Struggles in these areas significantly impact a child’s self-esteem and desire to participate in age appropriate activities. Fortunately, mixed dominance can be easily addressed through therapy.

      Try this pouring and scooping activity to refine hand dominance in functional tasks.

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

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

      Free visual processing email lab to learn about visual skills needed in learning and reading.
      What is mixed dominance and what does this mean for kids?

      Occupational Therapy Vision Screening Tool

      Click here to read more about the Visual Screening Packet.   This is a digital file. Upon purchase, you will be able to access the 10 page file and print off to use over and over again in vision screenings and in educating therapists, teachers, parents, and other child advocates or caregivers.  


      For even MORE information on eye-hand coordination and activities to use in your occupational therapy practice, you will want to join our free visual processing lab email series. It’s a 3-day series of emails that covers EVERYthing about visual processing. We take a closer look at visual skills and break things down, as well as covering the big picture of visual needs.

      In the visual processing lab, you will discover how oculomotor skills like smooth pursuits make a big difference in higher level skills like learning and executive function. The best thing about this lab (besides all of the awesome info) is that it has a fun “lab” theme. I might have had too much fun with this one 🙂

      Join us in visual processing Lab! Where you won’t need Bunsen burners or safety goggles!

      Click here to learn more about Visual Processing Lab and to sign up.

      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.

      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

      Ambidexterity or Mixed Dominance

      What is ambidexterity

      Many parents see their child switch hands during tasks, or show refined use of both hands and wonder if their child is ambidextrous. Maybe a child uses their left hand to throw a ball, but bats with their right hand. Maybe they kick a ball with their right foot, but hold a pencil with their left hand. Ambidexterity is a common question among parents of kids who switch hands in activities or don’t use one hand consistently.

      Here, we are covering several aspects of ambidexterity. We’ll go over the difference between being ambidextrous and having mixed dominance. We’ll cover what it means when a child uses both hands to write or color. And, we’ll go over some activities to support a dominant hand.

      How do you know if your child is ambidextrous or if they are showing signs of mixed dominance? This post will explain a little more about ambidexterity as well as mixed dominance and what it means in motor skills.

      What is ambidexterity? Is my child ambidextrous?

      What does Ambidextrous Mean?

      The definition of ambidextrous is use of both hands with equal refined precision and motor skill. This means that each side of the body is equally able to write with natural motor planning, fine motor control, strength, and refined motor movements.

      According to the definition of ambidexterous, there is equal refinement and precision. You might think this means just the hands and fingers are involved with equal use of both sides. However, that’s not exactly the case.

      Those who are truly ambidextrous may have equal use of hands, as well as feet, eyes, and even toungue motor skills.

      An ambidextrous child will play naturally with toys using both hands. You might notice equal use of the hands and feet, or switching left to right or right to left during play, sports, school work, and other tasks.

      When it comes to someone being ambidextrous and fine motor involvement, this can refer to:

      • Writing
      • Scissor use
      • Clothing fasteners
      • Play
      • Hand strength
      • Brushing teeth and hair
      • Many other every day tasks

      Ambidextrous also refers to the feet too.

      An ambidextrous person will be able to kick equally strong and with the same amount of force with both feet. They are able to “take off” from a running stance with equal feet placement, whether they start out running on their left foot or their right foot. Gross motor ambidexterity can be seen in:

      • Jumping
      • Running
      • Skipping
      • Hopping
      • Balance
      • Kicking a ball
      • Throwing a ball
      • Catching a ball
      • Among many other every day tasks

      Ambidexterity can be observed in the eyes, too. Typically, all of us have one eye that is stronger, or a naturally dominant eye. We can complete a visual screening to identify this, or a visual exam may be in order.

      Finally, an ambidextrous individual may show motor overflow movements with the tongue to both sides of the body.

      Are you wondering about a child who uses both hands to write or perform tasks? Maybe you know a child who uses both hands equally and with equal skill. Perhaps your child uses one hand for specific tasks and their other hand for other tasks.

      Mixed Dominance or Ambidexterous?

      Just yesterday on The OT Toolbox, we discussed mixed dominance. In this post, we will cover more about true ambidexterity and what that means.

      A child with mixed dominance demonstrates clear, stronger patterns based on the side of the body they are utilizing to complete the task.

      For example, a child who is left hand dominant will develop a stronger fine motor pattern then a child who is not left side dominant but compensating for fatigue and is moderately adept at utilizing the left hand as a coping skill.

      Is my child ambidextrous

      A child who is truly ambidextrous will be equally as skilled at utilizing both sides of the body and it will look and feel natural to the child. Statistically, only 1% of the population is truly ambidextrous—it’s really very rare, and it is more likely that your child is experiencing mixed dominance patterns.

      True ambidexterity requires both hands to be used with equal precision and there is no true preference in either the right or left hand for either both fine or gross motor tasks.

      Can you make yourself ambidextrous?

      This is an interesting question. Many times there is a perceived benefit to being ambidextrous, or switching hand or foot use during a task. Some perceived benefits might be:

      • Switching hands when one is fatigued from use during a task
      • Switching dominant sides during a sport such as baseball or softball to pitch with the other arm, batting from another side, dribbling to the other side when bringing up the ball during basketball, or kicking a ball with the other foot during soccer.
      • Writing equal legibility with both hands

      Actually being ambidextrous is different than teaching yourself to become ambidextrous.

      To use both sides of the hand as a learned concept takes cognitive attention whereas natural ambidexterity occurs without thought. Because of the neuroplasticity of the brain, humans have the ability to teach themselves to use their non-dominant hand or side to complete tasks. It takes practice, practice, and more practice.

      Read here on motor planning where we cover this concept.

      Ambidexterity or Mixed Dominance?

      Is my child ambidextrous? Isn’t that what mixed dominance is? These are two questions that therapists get asked frequently when evaluating a child for the first time for mixed dominance and other concerns. The answer is no, they are not the same thing.

      This is a tricky area. Therapists recognize mixed dominance as a miscommunication or poor integration of the left and right sides of the brain and that’s how it’s explained to parents. However, there is a lot of information out there on this topic that may or may not be relevant to your child and her struggles— keep this in mind when Googling information.

      It is more likely, that your child’s brain is utilizing the left and right sides for very specific motor skills such as writing, eating and throwing a ball. This can lead to motor confusion—this is where the poor integration and lack of communication between the left and right sides of the brain comes into play.

      When the child is not utilizing one side of the brain more dominantly for motor patterns, confusion and poor motor learning occur leading to delays and deficits in motor skills.

      It is unclear why the brain develops this way, but it does happen, and it is okay. In fact, it is easily addressed by an occupational therapist.

      Ambidexterous Motor Development

      I already touched on this a little, but a child with mixed dominance may switch sides for task completion when experiencing fatigue. Due to this, their motor development and precision is typically delayed.

      The most common area that this is noted in is in fine motor development for handwriting. This is because the child is equally, but poorly skilled with both hands, and will switch hands to compensate for fatigue.

      Motor delays may also be noticed later on when it comes to the reciprocal movements needed to throw/catch or kick a ball and when skipping. A child with mixed dominance may attempt to catch and throw with the same hand, hold a bat with a backwards grip, or stand on the opposite side of the plate when hitting.

      They may also experience a moderate level of confusion, and frustration as they are unsure of how to make the two sides of their body work together leading to overall poor hand/foot-eye coordination skills.Ambidexterity or mixed dominance and what this means for kids who use both hands to complete tasks like handwriting.

      For a few fun hand dominance activities, try these ideas to help kids establish a

      Ambidextrous hands and eyes

      If you have more questions and want to learn more on a dominant eyes and understanding how the eyes and hands work together during activities, you’ll want to check out our Visual Processing Lab.

      It’s a 3-day series of emails that covers everything about visual processing, visual motor skills, and eye-hand coordination. We take a closer look at visual skills and break things down, as well as covering the big picture of visual needs and how the hands and eyes work together.  

      In the visual processing lab, you will discover how oculomotor skills like smooth pursuits make a big difference in higher level skills like learning and executive function. The best thing about this lab (besides all of the awesome info) is that it has a fun “lab” theme. I might have had too much fun with this one 🙂  

      Join us in visual processing Lab! Where you won’t need Bunsen burners or safety goggles!  

      Click here to learn more about Visual Processing Lab and to sign up.

      Free visual processing email lab to learn about visual skills needed in learning and reading.

      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

      Magnetic Marble Run- Great Therapy Tool!

      magnetic wall marble run

      One thing occupational therapists love is using fun toys to develop skills and this magnetic marble run fits the bill. We found this Tumble Trax magnetic wall marble run and loved the ways to support fine motor skills, visual motor skills, and gross motor skills. Let’s take a better look at how to use a marble run to support development, and break down the activity analysis for this particular magnetic marble run toy.

      Magnetic marble run activities for therapy

      Amazon affiliate links are included in this post.

      How to Use a Magnetic Marble Run

      Use this magnetic marble run in so many ways to work on a variety of skills. From fine motor, to core strength, to visual tracking, to crossing midline…this marble run can be so helpful.

      We covered how to support skills such as visual tracking using marble runs in a different blog post but here, we hope to cover more ways to support development with a simple toy.

      Because this marble run attaches to the wall using magnets, and because the magnetic marble run pieces are movable, there are so many ways to support development.

      Some of these skills include gross motor development, visual motor skill development, fine motor development, and more.

      Use a Magnetic Marble Run for Gross Motor Skills

      Use the magnetic marble run on a vertical surface to address skill development:

      • Work on core strength by working on a vertical surface.
      • Address visual shift and upright posture by working at a plane equal or slightly above the head and line of sight.
      • Work on postural control
      • Address changes in positioning to bend, squat, and challenge different muscle groups by bending to retrieve marble run pieces and place them on the magnetic surface.
      • Work overhead to visually track and shift vision in different planes.
      • Address balance and coordination skills
      • Incorporate breathing

      Use a Magnetic Marble Run for Visual Processing Skills

      Move magnetic marble run pieces to target specific visual motor skills:

      • Work on visual tracking to watch the marble run through the track.
      • Address visual scanning skills to shift vision to the next area the marble will move
      • Incorporate eye-hand coordination skills
      • Address visual perceptual skills such as figure-ground, visual closure, visual discrimination, etc.
      • Address visual motor skills by copying designs using the movable track pieces, included with the Tumble Trax Magnetic Marble Run set.

      Use a Marble Run for Fine Motor Skills

      • Address crossing midline to move a marble to a starting point across the midline.
      • Trace the track with fingers.
      • Pick up and manipulate the marble onto the Tumble Trax ledge.
      • Strengthen hands, including grip and pinch to manipulate and move the track pieces against the magnetic surface.

      Attach it to a magnetic wall or board, garage door, and even the refrigerator. It’s a fun way to play and work on the skills kids need.

      Magnetic marble run

      Learning Resources Tumble Trax Magnetic Marble Run

      This marble run attaches to the refrigerator or any magnetic surface for endless visual motor integration exercises. Visually tracking the marble is a skill builder for reading and writing tasks.  Kids can address the form copying skills needed for handwriting with this interactive toy.

      Click here to get this magnetic marble run.

      More Marble Run Activities

      Check out these other marble run activities we’ve shared before:

      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

      Looking for more ways to support fine motor skills, visual motor skills, sensory challenges, and gross motor skill development? Grab one of our therapy kits to work on so many areas!

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

      Scanning Activities for Reading (Free Download)

      visual scanning for reading

      Today, we have a fun scanning activities for reading using a printable resource that supports the underlying visual skills while using a fun theme that kids engage with. Vision truly impacts learning so if we can support the areas of development that help a child thrive, we are moving in the right direction. One of the ways that occupational therapy professionals support development is through meaningful occupations, and anything fun and playful is a winner when it comes to pediatric OT!

      There are many visual scanning activities that support functional participation. Here, we’re talking specifically about reading skills.

      Visual Scanning and reading

      The end of the school year might feel like coasting into the finish line, however it needs to be focused on meeting goals and preparing learners for summer reading. 

      Learners seem to have a love/hate relationship with reading. I believe the people who hate reading struggle with this task.  Becoming a proficient reader takes a combination of skills. Beyond vision, phonics, spelling, and letter recognition, are the visual perceptual skills needed to read fluently. Today’s post is focusing on scanning activities for reading. 

      Visual scanning impacts reading in many ways.

      • The child who struggles with letter reversals
      • The child who labors with reading and commonly skips words or lines of words when reading.
      • Saccadic eye movement, or visual scanning, is necessary for reading a sentence or paragraph as the eyes follow the line of words.
      • Visual scanning allows us to rapidly shift vision between two objects without overshooting as when shifting vision during reading tasks.
      • In copying written work, this skill is very necessary.
      • Skips words or a line of words when reading or re-reads lines of text
      • Must use finger to keep place when reading
      • Poor reading comprehension

      All of these aspects of reading can be an issue because of scanning challenges.

      So what’s going on here, visually?

      Visual scanning is one of several visual perceptual skills. These have been highlighted in posts before, but as a reminder, they are:

      • Visual Attention: The ability to focus on important visual information and filter out unimportant background information.
      • Visual Discrimination: The ability to determine differences or similarities in objects based on size, color, shape, etc.
      • 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 Sequential-Memory: The ability to recall a sequence of objects in the correct order.
      • 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.
      • Visual Closure: The ability to recognize a form or object when part of the picture is missing

      All of these areas combined make up visual perception, and is part of the bigger picture of how our eyes work functionally.

      Visual perception is the ability to organize and interpret the information that is seen and give it meaning.  This is a common thread in therapy treatment, as it is the foundation for many activities addressed daily.

      Visual perception is essential for reading, writing, math, self care tasks, instrumental activities of daily living, and play.

      How to develop SCANNING Skills FOR READING

      There are ways to support the development and accuracy of visual scanning skills.

      1. Reading Readiness Skills- When my girls were young, the summer reading list meant a chance to earn a ticket to Six Flags from the school!  It also meant a dollar per chapter book from mom and dad.  I was out $61.00 just from one kid that summer.  It was worth it. 

      In preparation  we did a lot of scanning activities for reading readiness.  These included worksheets like the ones offered on the OT Toolbox, as well as games.  Amazon has their (affiliate link) visual perceptual games chunked into one search category. 

      This might include using reading prompts, desired books, and short reading passages.

      Other strategies include working on scanning the environment for details. Ask kids to look for items that are all one color, for example.

      Another reading readiness activity that supports reading is I Spy activities like these I Spy colors game, I spy with real toys, and printable pages (Many are found in our Membership).

      2. Visual Scanning Games- Some activities to develop scanning skills for reading include:

      • Tricky Fingers
      • QBitz
      • Where’s Waldo
      • Highlights Magazine
      • Spot it Games.

      3. Vision Activities– Also be sure to check out these vision activities for kids to support all of the underlying skills that impact reading and learning.

      Specifically, be sure to check out these visual scanning activities that cover the full gamut!

      4. Take a Deeper Look at What’s Going On- When assessing for reading difficulties, once you have ruled out visual acuity issues, use a screening tool or assessment to test for visual perceptual deficits

      The Motor Free Visual Perceptual Test, as well as the Test of Visual Perceptual Skills, assesses the different visual perceptual skills, broken down into different areas. 

      5. Visual Scanning Exercises- The free spring weather visual scanning exercise (grab it below!) is just a sample of the larger packet offered HERE on the OT Toolbox.  

      Below you’ll find a free downloadable spring visual scanning exercise you can use to support visual scanning needed for reading skills. These activities include a weather and Spring theme, but you can use them all times of year. The sun and clouds themes work for everyone!

      This visual scanning exercise is a great scanning activity for reading. It relies on visual attention, discrimination, memory, visual-sequential memory, and figure ground.

      For more scanning work, grab the Spring Fine Motor Packet. This 97 page no-prep packet includes everything you need to guide fine motor skills in face-to-face AND virtual learning. Includes Spring themed activities for hand strength, pinch and grip, dexterity, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, endurance, finger isolation, and more. 

      6. Visual Perception Activities- There are several posts this month highlighting Visual Perceptual Activities for Spring. 

      For some therapists, parents, and educators these will be great worksheets for spring break, on those long rides to Grandma’s house.

      Others will find these PDF sheets great for a spring lesson plan. Make a great packet of pages to send home, or do during class.  You can laminate these pages to make them eco-friendly and reusable. Some people project these onto smart boards, however I personally prefer the added skills involved in writing on paper.  However you choose to motivate your learners is the key to success.

      DATA COLLECTION during scanning activities

      Scanning activities for reading readiness are great for data collection. It is easy to measure the number of correct/incorrect guesses.

      Of course it gets tricky when other factors such as impulsivity, attention, and compliance skew the data. Be sure to document these aspects of scanning that impacts reading skills as a functional task:

      • Document the number of errors, while adding narrative about the learner’s behavior. 
      • Provide several different types of visual perceptual tasks to try and determine which specific skills (or combination) are deficient.  This way your treatment can be more efficient, if you can hone in on one or two skill areas, such as visual memory, or scanning. 

      DOCUMENTATION of Scanning tasks to support reading

      • Does your learner scan in sequential order, or all over the page?
      • Are items completely missed when scanning?
      • Is your learner taking their time, or making random guesses?
      • Does your learner thoroughly look at all the choices before giving an answer?

      Some of these questions are not easy to answer. Continue to provide different types of exercises in order to measure progress. 

      Progress is often the answer we seek, rather than “why do they do that?”  Often doctors do not know the why, but have to try different things until they find something that works. 

      Use spring break (if you are lucky enough to have one) to rest and recharge for all of the fun spring activities that can be added to your treatment plans and OT Toolbox!

      Free scanning activity Download to support reading skills

      Want to add this printable tool to your therapy toolbox?

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      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.

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      FREE Visual Scanning for Reading Exercise

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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.

        NOTE*The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for readability and inclusion. This information is relevant for students, patients, clients, preschoolers, kids/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.