The Many Benefits of Coloring with Crayons

Fine motor skills with coloring

There are many benefits of coloring with crayons in occupational therapy interventions. Coloring with crayons is a fine motor skill that builds other skills. Did you know that the act of coloring with a crayon can help children develop fine motor strength, dexterity, grasp, and endurance in their hands? And, coloring skills develop by more coloring. Here’s the thing: occupational therapists use crayons to help children develop fine motor skills, but they also work on the development of coloring skills as a functional task that is part of play, and typical child development. Let’s talk about all of the coloring skills that occupational therapy addresses with a simple box of crayons.

Benefits of coloring in child development

You know that smell, right? It’s kind of waxy and flaky (if that’s a smell…) and so distinctive! If you open a box of crayons that have the little marks of each crayon inside the cardboard box, it has an even stronger smell.  Crayons smell like childhood! This post on coloring skills is part of my 31 Days of Occupational Therapy series, where each day is a creative activity using OT treatment materials that are free or almost free.  

Fine Motor Skills with Crayons

Crayons are something that most homes have in a pencil box, in an old tin, or in a drawer somewhere.  Did you know those childhood memory sticks (aka Crayons) can be used in SO many skill areas?  

Consider fine and gross motor strength, tool use, sensory processing, pencil grasp, line awareness, hand-eye coordination, dexterity, endurance, self-confidence, creativity, task completion, and learning objectives like color identification, and color matching.  Crayons develop the very skills needed for pencil grasp and carryover of that pencil grasp. Whew!  No wonder crayons get worn down to nubs with all of those areas that they are working on!  

Coloring is a fine motor skill and it helps kids develop other areas.

Benefits of Coloring for Children

There are so many developmental benefits to coloring! It’s more than creating a colorful preschool work of art.

Related Read: Read about how we worked on carryover of pencil grasp and strengthened fine motor skills and so many other areas with our 3 Crayon Challenge activity.

There are so many benefits to coloring for kids: hand strength, visual motor skills, visual perception, tool use, creativity, endurance, creativity, self-confidence, task completion, and learning objectives!  Tips from an Occupational Therapist for working on coloring and handwriting in school and at home.

Coloring with crayons Improves Tool Use

Coloring with crayons improves a child’s ability to manipulate tools such as pencils, scissors, utensils, grooming and hygiene tools, and other functional tools with ease. By developing coloring skills, kids have a natural opportunity to explore a writing utensil in a way that is fun and creative.  

They can use different colors by placing crayons back into the box with a coordinated manner.  To further develop tool use with children, offer a crayon pencil sharpener, a small bin or zippered pouch that needs opening or closing, and a variety of crayon sizes and shapes. All of these can extend fine motor skills with more practice in tool use as well as dexterity.

Coloring with Crayons improves Bilateral Coordination

Bilateral Coordination is a fine motor skill needed for so many tasks. Using both hands together in a coordinated manner is a skill needed for handwriting, scissor use, and many functional tasks.  When coloring, a child needs to hold the paper as they color.  Using the assisting, non-dominant hand as a stabilizer allows a child to build strength and dexterity in their dominant hand.  This skill will carry over to writing tasks, and makes coloring a great activity for kids who are switching hands in activities.

Coloring with Crayons Improves Endurance

Building on the fine motor skill areas, coloring can deepen a child’s endurance in completing writing tasks.  

Many times, kids will complain of hand fatigue while coloring.  They can build muscle endurance by coloring with the small muscles of their hands and allow for greater endurance when writing, too. To help a child develop hand strength, use coloring!

You can help kids improve hand strength with this simple coloring exercise: Instruct a child how to color in small circles to work on the strength and endurance of the intrinsic muscles.  Ask them to fill in the complete circle. To extend the activity, create more circles. This exercise can be extended further by working on a vertical surface such as an easel or by taping the page to a wall. This develops proximal stability at the shoulder girdle as well as core strength, allowing for postural stability in written work.

If a child needs to work on this area, you can show the student how to color on a slanted surface like a slanted table surface or elevated surface. Here is an easy way to create a DIY slant board.

Broken Crayons help with hand strength! 

Fine motor skills with coloring

Coloring develops Tripod Grasp

Coloring is a fine motor strengthening tool that many Occupational Therapists recommend and use in treatment sessions.  Coloring is a resistive task that provides the small muscles in the hand to work the waxy crayon onto coloring sheets.  When a child holds a crayon, they are working on the strength of the intrinsic muscles of the hand.  

Using broken crayons requires more work and is a greater strengthening task for kids who need to work on their tripod grasp. For more strengthening, encourage your child to color more resistive surfaces such as construction paper, cardboard, or even sand paper. 

Coloring offers sensory input

Coloring with a crayon can be an opportunity to add heavy work through the hands. This sensory feedback is proprioceptive input that “wakes up” the muscles of the hands and can be calming input.

Unlike a marker, children can color lightly or very dark by exerting more pressure.  The proprioceptive system comes into play when a child attempts to vary the amount of pressure they are exerting through the crayon.

Coloring with markers just doesn’t provide that resistive feedback that coloring with a waxy crayon does. Markers are smooth and don’t give kids the sensory input that help with learning letters.  For a fun twist on letter formation activities, grab a box of crayons!  

To help kids write with heavier or lighter pencil pressure when writing, encourage children to shade and combine colors by being aware of how lightly or darkly they are coloring.  There is also that crayon scent that children are aware of, either consciously or unconsciously.  If you recall the scent of crayons from your childhood, then you know what I’m talking about here!

Coloring Skills Develop Spatial Awareness

Coloring skill development progresses as children gain experience in coloring. By developing coloring skills, kids can improve visual perceptual skills. Spatial awareness is an aspect of perceptual skills.

Visual perception is so important to many functional skills in handwriting: awareness of the body’s position as it moves through space, line awareness, using margins on a page, and writing within a given space.  Coloring is a great tool in working on these areas as children color within lines and given spaces.  

But sometimes, kids have trouble staying in the lines or coloring in areas without leaving large spaces uncolored.  Verbal prompts, highlighted lines, bold lines, thick coloring lines, and physical prompts like raised lines can improve spatial awareness in coloring.

There are so many benefits to coloring for kids: hand strength, visual motor skills, visual perception, tool use, creativity, endurance, creativity, self-confidence, task completion, and learning objectives!  Tips from an Occupational Therapist for working on coloring and handwriting in school and at home.

Coloring Skills and Eye Hand Coordination

One reason that coloring in occupational therapy sessions is so well-used as an intervention strategy is the development of eye-hand coordination skills. There are benefits of coloring with crayons when it comes to coordinating vision and motor skills. When writing or coloring, children must coordinate their physical movements with information received from their visual system.  

Controlled movements are essential for handwriting, letter formation, and neatness in handwriting.  Coloring helps with practicing coordination of the visual input with physical movements of the hands in very small spaces or large areas.

Providing smaller areas of coloring require more controlled movements and dexterity.  For difficulties in this area, consider adding boundaries to coloring areas, with darkened and thicker lines or raised boundaries like using Wikki Stix around the coloring area.

Coloring Benefits Creativity and Self-Confidence

Another of the benefits of coloring with crayons involves self-confidence. Coloring inspires creativity in kids.  A blank piece of paper and a box of crayons can inspire stories and pictures.  Being creative allows a child to build their self-confidence in other areas, especially handwriting and pencil tasks. If you’ve ever received a coloring masterpiece from a child, then you know the pure delight they have when giving a creation they have made.  That boost of self-confidence will entice them to complete other paper/pencil tasks.

Coloring helps with Color Identification and Color Matching

Crayons are color!  Kids can be encouraged to practice color identification with the bright and vivid colors in a crayon box.  Use a color by number activity to work on color matching skills.

These visual discrimination skills, visual scanning, visual attention, and visual memory needed to identify and match colors are part of the visual perceptual skills we talked about above. All of these are needed skills for reading, writing, math, and other higher level cognitive skills.

Coloring with crayons in occupational therapy helps kids develop fine motor skills

Coloring in occupational therapy teletherapy

All you need to develop the skills listed above is a simple box of crayons. This makes coloring a powerful tool in occupational therapy teletherapy, because many homes have crayons available.

Working on fine motor skills in teletherapy can be difficult because so many of an occupational therapist’s favorite fine motor tools might not be available. This is where using crayons to work on a variety of skills can be so powerful.

Try some of these teletherapy activities using crayons:

So, now you know the many benefits of coloring with crayons.  How can you use crayons in developmental and functional tasks?  Let’s explore crayons for various ages and stages.

Toys and tools for kids who love to color and ways to incorporate coloring into kids daily lives to work on so many functional skills like fine motor, grasp, visual perceptual.

Toys for Coloring Skills

Here are some creative learning and play ideas that kids will love.  Some of these are more pricey than just a box of crayons, but your crayon fan will enjoy using these toys and games and won’t even realize they are working on so many skills!

(We’re including affiliate links.)   One of our favorite books is The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Dewalt. This is a book for crayon fans! We grab this book from the library anytime we see it, and it’s got a great message, too. Kids will be inspired to color after reading this book about crayons. 

 It’s no secret that crayons are a fine motor powerhouse when it comes to developing that tripod grasp! You can use larger crayons for smaller kids or children who need to work on other grasps, like a lateral key grasp, or children who need to work on thumb adduction in functional tasks like scissoring. These ALEX Jr. Tots First Crayons are just the thing to try! 

 Work on more fine motor skills, like finger isolation when using Finger Crayons.

Kids can get creative and explore sensory play while using crayons in the bathtub. 

 These Bath Time Crayons are on my list to try!

Do you remember rubbing crayons over fashion design kits as a kid? There is a reason to do this play activity with kids! 

This Fashion Design Activity Kit provides proprioceptive input and strength to little hands in a fun and creative way. 

 With 152 colors, this Crayola Ultimate Crayon Case will give your kiddo a color for every creative whim. This looks so inviting! 

 There is a coloring book out there for everyone! Even adults can get in on the coloring fun with creative coloring like this Art Nouveau Animal Designs Coloring Book . Color alongside your child for calming and relaxing art time. 

 I love the large size and big pictures of the Melissa & Doug Jumbo Coloring Pads. They are perfect for the youngest colorers. 

For more creative fun, try Dry Erase Crayons right on a dry erase surface. This is a great way to practice spelling words on a resistive surface. 

Little artists will love to create their own t-shirt designs using Fabric Crayons
. This is a fun way to work on fine motor strength and bilateral coordination. Holding down that cotton t-shirt is a bilateral coordination workout!

There are so many benefits to coloring for kids: hand strength, visual motor skills, visual perception, tool use, creativity, endurance, creativity, self-confidence, task completion, and learning objectives!  Tips from an Occupational Therapist for working on coloring and handwriting in school and at home.

More Crayon activities

Metallic Crayon Dough

Shades of red crayon play dough 

Harold and the Purple Crayon play dough 

Rainbow Crayon Play Dough

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

Vision 101 Course

Vision 101 course for occupational therapists

You might know that there is a lot of vision information and resources on visual processing here on the website. Today, I’m excited to bring you all of those vision resources in one place and to to share information on Vision 101, a new vision course that you will find useful.

The Vision 101 course is a giveaway item today in the Therapy Tools and Toys Giveaway series. (Giveaway now closed)

Vision 101 for vision resources, visual efficiency, and occupational therapy resources and OT interventions for visual processing in kids.

Vision 101

Vision problems are very common in children that receive occupational therapy.

If you are looking for information on visual processing and vision in kids, then you are in the right place. Check out the various resources and tools available here on The OT Toolbox:

Free Visual Perception Packet– Print and go! These free visual perceptual skills worksheets cover a variety of topics and themes. Work on visual closure, visual scanning, visual discrimination, and more.

Vison Screening Packet– Use this vision screening packet to screen for vision issues that impact occupational performance and education in learning and school tasks.

Vision Information– Check out all of the vision blog posts here on the website.

Vision Activities– Let’s break down vision! These vision activities address specific skills in fun and creative ways. You’ll find information on vision definitions and activities to work on each aspect of visual processing.

Free Visual Processing Lab– This free email course covers tons of information on visual processing and breaks down this massive topic into visual motor integration, visual perception, and visual efficiency…and then explains each aspect.

Visual Processing Checklist– This printable checklist is perfect for screening visual needs in the school setting.

Vision’s Impact on Learning– The fact is that children with vision issues are impacted in their learning. Here’s what you need to know.

Visual Motor Skills– Let’s face it. Much of what we do on a daily basis involves visual motor integration. Here is all of the info and resources to address visual motor skills in kids.

Visual Processing Bundle– This resource is a must-have for all things vision. It includes 17 products that you can use in therapy sessions to work on vision needs impacting occupational performance.

Want to gain continuing education credits while you learn how to apply vision interventions into your school-based practice? Vision 101 is your resource!

Vision 101 course for occupational therapy practioners

Vision 101 Course for School-Based OTs

Vision 101 is a course created by my friend Jaime at Miss. Jaime OT. She’s created this AOTA-approved course as a tool to help you improve your skills as a school-based occupational therapist. In the course, you can learn how to detect, screen for, and treat the visual difficulties that impact students’ learning

Vision 101 for School-based Occupational Therapy Practitioners is a tool to help you understand how vision deficits impact a child’s ability to learn and participate in school work.

The course offers resources on how to help students learn and participate in school tasks.

Included in the Vision course is information on:

  • Vision and the school-based therapist
  • Recognizing possible visual impediments to learning
  • Understanding visual diagnoses
  • Assessing and documenting eye movements
  • Visual characteristics of common pediatric diagnosis
  • Treatment Ideas
  • Vision and telehealth

Vision in the school setting

Check out the blog comments below for common questions about vision in the school setting.

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

Vision Problems or Attention

Vision problems or attention issues

Visual deficits and occupational therapy interventions go hand in hand. And, the connection between vision problems or attention issues impacts children when it comes to ADD and ADHD. In fact, the connection between visual deficits and attention is especially a factor in OT treatment. Trouble paying attention, difficulty with reading, finishing work on time and staying on task can be signs of both attention issues or a vision issue. So, how do you tell the difference, and what do you do about it? Knowing if a visual impairment is present can mean the difference between accommodating for vision difficulties and a different diagnosis, such as attention deficit disorder. 

Vision problems or attention issues

Vision or Attention Deficit Disorder

Children with vision deficits work twice as hard, and use more “brain” power to make their eyes work correctly as compared to peers without vision deficits. 

Children with vision deficits may also experience fatigue more quickly, have frequent headaches, or blurry vision.

When they begin to experience the above symptoms, it is easier for the child to look away, leading them to appear to be “staring off into space” or lose focus. These behaviors are often mistaken for ADD in the classroom setting. Vision deficits that may be behind these symptoms and actions include: 

  • Poor tracking 
  • Poor teaming
  • Poor convergence and divergence
  • Eye muscle imbalances 

All of these issues can impact learning.

Vision and Social Skills

Like kids with ADD, kids with vision deficits often appear to have poor social skills. Behaviors include a lack of response to their name, missing social cues or facial expressions, and not attending to others in the room. 

This apparent “lack” of social skills is also related to how hard they are working on using their eyes. When this happens, the level of executive function left for other tasks significantly decreases. 

This may also make the child appear “scatter brained” or disorganized. 

Attention Deficit Disorder Symptoms

Vision concerns outside of acuity are FREQUENTLY missed due to limited vision screening protocols and the desire to quickly remediate behavior.

 In addition to limited vision screening, vision deficits are not widely recognized as a potential reason for distracted or inattentive behavior. 

Attention issues and vision Problems

If you have concerns, or concerns have been brought to your attention, regarding your child and ADD, rule out vision deficits first. A trip to a developmental ophthalmologist may help better explain your child’s behavior concerns and provide them the help they truly need.


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

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

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


Occupational Therapists screen for visual problems in order to determine how they may impact functional tasks. Our newest Visual Screening Tool is a useful resource or identifying visual impairments. Visual screening can occur in the classroom setting, in inpatient settings, in outpatient therapy, and in early intervention or home care.

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

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

Click here to read more about the Visual Screening Tool 

Visual screening tool for vision problems in kids

Fine Motor Skills with Building Blocks

Fine motor development with blocks

As a pediatric occupational therapist, I’ve used wooden building blocks in occupational therapy many times. For my own children, I’ve used regular wooden blocks as a fine motor tool too! In fact, building with blocks is a fine motor skills that kids need in order to fine motor development many, many, (MANY) times.  Wooden blocks are a tool that are used for development of goal progression in treatment activities and in assessment of fine motor developmental level.  They are used in visual perceptual skills, and are the perfect open-ended play item. 

Fine motor development with blocks

Many parents ask “is stacking blocks a fine motor skill?” The answer is YES!
As a Mom and OT, I’ve made sure my kids have a lot of wooden blocks (and a couple of varieties of toddler large blocks of the foam and plastic blocks, too!)

Today, I’m sharing how to use wooden blocks in fine motor skill development with kids…all while they play and don’t even realize their fine motor skills are being assessed or worked on! This is a great way to address skills for children and adults…anyone who needs to work on fine motor skill development.

Fine motor skills building blocks for kids

Fine Motor Skills and Building Blocks

Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Stacking blocks is a fine motor skill. And, when children stack blocks, they develop and refine fine motor skills. Check out the list of benefits of playing with blocks that are described below. Each area of development can be developed using a set of building blocks.

Looking at various building blocks from the perspective of an occupational therapist, my favorite wooden blocks are Melissa and Doug Wood Blocks Set.  The set is huge and comes with a variety of bright colors in solid wooden blocks, which are sized just right to help kids build fine motor skills.

Fine motor skills and building blocks go hand-in-hand…literally! There are SO many benefits to playing with blocks. Let’s break down all of the benefits of playing with blocks…

Benefits of playing with blocks include development of fine motor skills, gross motor skills, visual motor skills, and more.

Benefits of Playing with Blocks

  1. Building with blocks help kids develop grasp- From the time toddlers can grasp a block with their whole hand, grasp development begins. Blocks are a fine motor power tool when it comes to working on grasp development! Read below for the specifics of small kids playing with blocks. By picking up on block, manipulating it in the hand, and placing it on a stack of blocks, children progress from a gross grasp to a radial palmer grasp and then to a digital palmer grasp, followed by a tip-to-tip grasp using the pointer finger and thumb.

Check out this developmental checklist for more information.

2. Building with blocks helps kids develop graded fine motor skills- As small children progress through typical grasp progression, they begin to gain more control over those motor skills. This occurs on a stability basis (use of the core and shoulder to stabilize the arm) and on a dexterous basis (precise, small, and graded movements of the fingers). By gaining these skills, children are able to pick on one block from a stack without toppling the entire block tower. They are also able to place a block onto a stack of blocks without knocking over the entire tower. These graded movements are essential for precision and dexterity in functional tasks as children gain a sense of personal awareness and how their body moves through space in order to pick up and manipulate objects.

This blog post on fine motor precision and graded release explains more on this skill and has a fun fine motor activity to develop graded precision in fine motor skills.

3. Building with blocks helps children develop eye-hand coordination- From a very young age, when babies develop the ability to see and move their arm to reach for a block, those eye-hand coordination skills are beginning to develop. Visual motor integration is a main piece of the visual processing skills puzzle, and coordinating movements with visual information is essential for so many functional tasks in learning and play. Catching a ball, writing with a pencil, cutting with scissors, are just a few examples of eye-hand coordination tasks that rely on the baseline skills developed from a young age. Toddlers can manipulate and build with blocks while developing this skill through play. Stacking, knocking blocks over, building a block train, making towers, and using blocks in constructive play are powerful tools to developing eye-hand coordination skills.

Like blocks, there are many toys to promote eye-hand coordination.

4. Building with blocks helps children develop bilateral coordination– Establishing a hand dominance and laterality is an important fine motor skill that transfers to tasks like writing with a pencil and holding the paper with the nondominant hand. Another example is mastering a zipper while stabilizing the material with the other hand. Still another example of bilateral coordination is cutting with scissors while holding and manipulating the paper with the nondominant hand. All of these tasks requires one hand to manipulate objects with more precision and dexterity while the other acts as a stabilizer. Building with blocks builds bilateral coordination as children stabilize a stack of blocks with one hand and use the other hand to release a block at the top of the stack with graded precision.

Here are more bilateral coordination activities that develop this essential motor skill.

5. Building with blocks helps children develop motor planning skills– Motor planning is a physical action that 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). Building with blocks is a great way to build these sub-skills as kids attempt to build with blocks to construct with blocks.

Here is more information on motor planning in kids.

6. Building with blocks helps children integrate the proprioceptive sense– Proprioception is one of our sensory systems that focuses on awareness of how one’s body moves through space, and how much effort is needed to move in certain ways. The proprioception system receives input from the muscles and joints about body position, weight, pressure, stretch, movement and changes in position in space.  Our bodies are able to grade and coordinate movements based on the way muscles move, stretch, and contract. Proprioception allows us to apply more or less pressure and force in a task. Instinctively, we know that lifting a feather requires very little pressure and effort, while moving a large backpack requires more work.  We are able to coordinate our movements effectively to manage our day’s activities with the proprioceptive system.  The brain also must coordinate input about gravity, movement, and balance involving the vestibular system. Building with blocks is a great way to develop and refine this skill. How much effort is needed to pick up a block and place it in a specific spot without moving other blocks while building a tower of blocks or a block building?

To take this a step further, use larger blocks that require gross motor skills, and more awareness of proprioception skills. Here are DIY cardboard blocks that we’ve made for this very purpose.

Here is more information on proprioception activities.

7. Blocks help children integrate midline awareness– Crossing midline can be developed from a young age when playing with blocks. This is a great way for babies and toddlers to work on crossing midline, by reaching for blocks, building, and creating.

Here is more information on crossing midline.

8. Blocks help children develop visual motor skills- Visual motor skills (and visual motor integration) are needed for coordinating the hands, legs, and the rest of the body’s movements with what the eyes perceive.  Visual  motor skills are essential to coordinated and efficient use of the hands and eyes. Visual motor integration is a skill we require for functioning. There is more that plays into the integration of visual motor skills into what we do and how we use our hands in activities. Building with blocks helps children develop skills in visual perception, eye-hand coordination, and visual processing skills play a part in the overarching visual motor skill development so we can perceive and process visual information and use that information with motor skills to manipulate and move objects in tasks and activities.

By building with blocks, areas like form constancy, visual attention, visual discrimination, spatial relations, visual memory, visual sequential memory, and visual figure ground are developed in accordance with eye-hand coordination, and visual efficiency.

Here is more information on visual motor skills.

9. Building with blocks develops learning too! Beyond fine motor skills, building with blocks helps kids develop other skills too. What will your toddler learn by picking up Wood Blocks Set, placing them into a container, and stacking towers? (Among other skills):

  • Cause and effect
  • Problem solving
  • Spatial awareness
  • Copying a design or visual prompt
  • Problem solving
  • Math: patterns, sizing, spatial concepts
  • Literacy 
  • Manipulation
  • Depth Perception

Here are more ways to use blocks to build skills in babies and toddlers.

By stacking blocks developmental milestones are created in children.

Building Blocks and Development

From developing a palmer grasp transition to a radial grasp to a tripod grasp and precision with graded release of motor skills, building with blocks help kids develop so many skills.  For today’s activity, we pulled out the one inch square blocks from the set and we used classic Alphabet blocks.  (This set has been chewed on and played with by all four of my kids so they look well loved aka have chew marks!) 

First up in developing fine motor skills with wooden blocks is the grasp. This is important in fine motor skills in toddlers. Blocks, for toddlers are a fine motor tool that builds on so many areas.

Stacking Blocks developmental milestones

The developmental ages of this progression are as follows:
Grasps a block with whole fist, lifting it off a table surface without dropping: 5 months
Grasps a block with all fingers: 6 months
Drops one block when given another: 6 months
Brings hands together when holding a block: 6 months
Grasps a block between the thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger (radial-palmer grasp): 7 months
Transfers a block from one hand to the other: 7 months
Bangs to wooden blocks together with both hands: 9 months
Grasps a block between the thumb, and the pads of the pointer and middle fingers with space between the block and the palm (radial-digital grasp): 11 months
Places wooden blocks into a container: 11 months
Builds a tower of three wooden blocks given a visual example: 15-16 months
Copies and builds a tower of 5 blocks: 19-20 months
Copies and builds a tower of 6 blocks: 21-22 months
Builds a tower of 8 blocks: 25-26 months
Copies a four block “train”: 29-30 months
Builds a 10 block tower: 29-30 months
Copies a three block pyramid or “bridge”: 31-32 months
Copies a four block “wall”: 35-36 months
Builds “steps” using six blocks: 51-52 months
Builds a six block pyramid: 53-54 months

Babies can develop the fine motor skill of a Radial palmer grasp with a wooden block

This Radial Palmer Grasp of wooden block is a beginning grasp in toddlers.

By playing with blocks from a young age, children can develop fine motor skills including a digital palmer grasp

After a radial palmer grasp, children progress to using a Digital Palmer Grasp of a Wooden Block. When children progress in development is the digital palmer grasp of holding a block, fine motor skill development speeds up fast.  By holding a block with the pads of the thumb and pointer and middle fingers, kids are working on the in-hand manipulation skills they will need for manipulating a pencil.  Make it fun while working on this area: Spin the block around with the tips of the fingers.  

How does rotation in the hand help with functional skills?  You need simple and complex rotation to complete these tasks:

  • Rotating a pencil when re-positioning while writing
  • Opening a toothpaste lid
  • Turning a paper clip
  • Turning knobs
  • Rotating the dial of a combination lock
These block stacking games and block activites can help kids develop skills.

Block Stacking Games

Now that you’ve read through the benefits of playing with blocks, and the stacking block milestones that impact fine motor skills in children, let’s cover ways to play with blocks while building these essential skills.

While stacking blocks and knocking them down are a fantastic way to help small children build essential skills, there are so many more ways to play with blocks, too.

These block stacking games and block activities can be used for fun block ideas while building skills at home or in occupational therapy sessions.

  1. With my toddler, we used the blocks to build small towers.  So, how can you make this a fun activity?  Usually, just playing with your kiddo and showing them how to build  a tower and knock down a tower makes building with blocks fun at this age. 
  2. These Alphabet blocks are great for working on rotation of the fingers.  Have your child look for specific shapes and letters on the sides of the blocks.

3. Add small toys like animal figures.  Have the animals walk up and down the block steps. 

4. Add play dough.  Have the child create “mortar” using the play dough between each block.

5. Create a train track and push coins around a masking tape track.

6. Build a wall to divide animal figures into a miniature zoo.

7. Build a small bridge for small doll or animal figures.

8. Build a pyramid and place a coin on each level.

9. Sort the blocks into piles according to shape or color. Create patterns with colors or shapes. Make lines of the blocks and see which line has the most.

10. Build blocks in water. Use foam blocks or plastic blocks in a low tray of water. How does the water impact stacking? Can you add soap foam? What happens then? There is so much cause-and-effect happening with water and block play! Here you can see how we used water and foam blocks for fine motor skills.

Let your child use their imagination!  The best thing about blocks are the open ended-ness that happens when playing.  You can create houses, roads, animals, and any imaginative scene possible with just a set of blocks!

Use these copying block designs occupational therapy activities to help kids develop skills

Copying Block Designs in Occupational Therapy

Beyond the fine motor skills listed above, there are visual motor skills that develop as well. This was covered briefly above, but to expand, copying block designs in occupational therapy is a skill that builds visual motor and visual perceptual skills needed for handwriting, reading, math, finding items like a utensil in a drawer, and so much more.

When children copy block designs, occupational therapists are working on areas such as spatial awareness, visual discrimination, visual attention, visual sequential memory, visual memory, form constancy, position in space, and other areas.

From top right and going clock-wise: 3 block pyramid or bridge, wall, pyramid, steps, and train.   Copying specific shapes works on the eye-hand coordination, grasp, precision, and visual perceptual skills needed for functional tasks like handwriting, cutting with scissors, manipulating small items, managing clothing fasteners, and tying shoes, among so many other tasks.    

Development of fine motor skills using wooden blocks

To make copying shapes with blocks fun, try these ideas:

  1. Build a block design alongside the child.

2. Build a block design using only one color of blocks.

3. Build a block design and then cover it with a small dishtowel. Can the child remember the design and build the same design?

4. Build a design and describe the blocks positions. Is one color on top or next to another? Use positioning words like next to, above, below, beside, to the left, to the right, etc.

5. Build bridge block designs and use small figures to cross the bridges.

6. Use different types of blocks. Try using LEGO, duplo blocks, rock blocks, or other three dimensional shapes. The part to focus on is coping forms in the three dimensional aspect, regarding position in space. There are so many different types of blocks on the market that work well for developing these skills.

7. Try building a small block form and then drawing it on paper.

8. Play “What’s Missing”. Build a block design and ask the child to look at the design for 20 seconds. Then, cover the design with a small dishtowel and remove one or more of the blocks. Can the child then look at the block design and figure out what is missing?

9. Make and build- Use colored paper to cut small squares that match the blocks you have in your set. Students can use the paper to “build” a two dimensional block design on paper or on the table top. Then, use real blocks to copy the paper design. This is an exercise in spatial concepts as students need to figure out any blocks that are out of view to hold up the block design.

10. Build block designs in a window or in a sunny place where the design creates a shadow. A flashlight or small lamp could also work as well. Then, place a piece of paper alongside the block design. Ask students to trace the shadow outline.

11. Create block forms that resemble real-life shapes, figures, and other relatable objects. Kids can copy block forms that resemble their favorite animals, people, and things like ice cream cones, presents, toys, vehicles, etc.

Block activities for helping kids learn and develop motor skills

Looking for more block activities?  

These Building Block STEM Challenge Cards challenge visual perceptual skills and visual motor skills. They also offer children a chance to build their problem solving skills and engineering skills with a STEM challenge.

Pair block building with a children’s book in this Ish Block Activity.

This Fractions with KORXX Block activity is a great hands-on math activity using blocks to challenge children who are learning fractions.

Use blocks and rubber bands to work on hand strength. Children can copy simple forms and connect them together using rubber bands.

A Building Block Maze Activity focuses on gross motor skills and builds spatial awareness skills as well as body awareness and self-awareness to position in space.

This Building Tens Castles is a nice way to help preschool and kindergarten aged students with the concept of tens and place value as they group blocks into groups of tens.

This Word Family BINGO! challenges kindergarten and first grade students to build words by using blocks. It’s a hands-on learning activity that also develops visual perceptual skills, and visual scanning.

A Building Block Addition Towers helps students with math concepts.

Letter matching with this Superhero Alphabet Matching Activity uses blocks to work on letter awareness, recognition, as well as visual perceptual skills.

This Sight Word ABCs with Blocks allows younger elementary school children to work on sight words as well as visual perceptual skills, eye-hand coordination, and motor planning.

For a gross motor activity that gets kids moving, use blocks to work on letters and sounds with this Letter Sound Scavenger Hunt.

Symmetrical awareness is a test of visual discrimination, form constancy, and visual memory. Work on symmetry with this Symmetry with Building Blocks activity.

This word building activity focuses on Building CVC words with Blocks and challenges children with visual perception and visual motor skills.

Working on visual attention, visual memory, and visual discrimination is easy with a block activity like this Making Patterns with Building Blocks idea.

Our favorite block ideas: 

How do you like to play with blocks?  Have you tried working on fine motor skills using wooden blocks?  Let us know!

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

Vision Activities for Kids

Vision activities

Skipping words when reading or copying written work, noticing details about things, reversing letters and numbers, poor eye-hand coordination or being a little clumsy, difficulty with reading comprehension…these are just SOME of the ways that vision impacts functional tasks in kids. Here you will find specific strategies and vision activities that help kids build and develop the underlying areas that impact independence.

Vision activities for kids to improve visual perception, visual efficiency, visual motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and more.

These vision activities are outlined by area that they improve, or those underlying skills that therapists work on so that kids can be independent in thins like catching a ball, writing on the lines, building puzzles, and so many other tasks.

We’ve recently put together a huge resource in our Visual Motor Skills section of the blog, which you can find under the tab at the top of the blog. Be sure to stop by and see all of the fun ways to play and develop visual perceptual skills, visual motor integration, visual figure ground, hand-eye coordination, visual discrimination, visual spatial relations, and more by checking out the vision activities for kids that we’ll be updating regularly.

Why Vision Activities?

Vision activities can sometimes be the missing piece to vision problems that we see in kids. Therapists often times working with kids with known or suspected visual perceptual or visual motor concerns, visual acuity issues, or other visual processing needs.

Teachers often have students that struggle with reading, copying, handwriitng, comprehension, attention, or focus.

Parents may have a child with a known vision issue or have a gut feeling about visual processing concerns.

Here is more information on visual processing and handwriting.

therapist Concerns

There are many concerns therapists have when it comes to vision needs in kids. Therapists need a quick screen to help identify the visual difficulties Rather than taking the extended time to work through several lengthy assessments, there is a time for evaluation, but a quick screening can pinpoint which strategy to take next.

Having quick activities to either do before or after an OT session, or to hand off to parents for home occupational therapy activities is a need for OTs. Similarly, quick vison activities that build on those underlying areas and are not disruptive to the class are sometimes needed.

Teacher Concerns

One of the main difficulties in the classroom is the impact vision has on learning. Kids struggle with visual stimulation and the inability to stay focused for any length of time due to visually processing so much information around us.  Students may visually dart their eyes from not only reading scripts but anything visually available, and they are unable to filter what isn’t required for the task at hand. When this happens, the eyes don’t know where to focus, therefore tasks take longer or don’t get completed, and it’s a real challenge for the child to focus. 

Handwriting is another reason to take a look at vision. Many kiddos have difficulties keeping letters aligned on a baseline, or even knowing where to place letters on a blank sheet of paper. 

So many kids cannot visually attend to an object to even assess tracking.  They will look past the tracking object and say they are looking at it or look at it for 1-2 seconds and their eyes dart in another direction.  How many children have you seen that have not had the capability to maintain visual contact with an object for a sustained amount of time? When this occurs, reading and handwriting can be a real problem?  

Vision Therapy

There is an overlap in interventions between vision therapy and occupational therapy. Much of the vision therapy research covers the vary skill areas that occupational therapy addresses in it’s OT activities.

So often, these two professions intervene in those vision activities that address the very areas kids struggle in:

-More and more kids who can not visually track- leading to trouble with reading and learning…

-Kids of various levels and abilities who struggle with interventions to address visual motor deficits…

-Students with real difficulties with reading and need strategies that make a difference in the classroom…

-Kids challenged by limited exposure to motor activities that translate to visual motor difficulties…

Kids struggle with orthographic memory (spelling patterns and knowing if a word looks right), but they have high levels of visual acuity.

-Many students have difficulty with visual memory and visual attention which makes it difficult for them to copy words or sentences. They require visual and verbal cues to refer back to the sample and often can only recall and copy one letter at a time.  

Vision Definitions

Before we cover various vision activities, we will go over the vision definitions for terms that relate to all things vision. This guide to vision can help you better understand what’s happening in those eyes.

Under each section are links to activities to build each skill area.

Visual Motor Integration- Visual motor integration includes the overarching umbrella that contains several areas, including visual perception, visual processing skills, and eye-hand coordination. The integration of these areas enables the eyes to perceive information through the vision functions (described in further below) and process information, resulting coordinated hand (and body) motor actions in order to complete a task. Visual motor integration includes a perceptual component that allows for copying of letters and positioning of objects based on perceptual input.

Here are visual motor skills activities.

Eye-Hand Coordination- This eye and hand skill allows an individual to catch a ball, hit a target, or complete other motor actions based on visual information. Development of eye-hand coordination occurs from birth and continues as kids develop more physical skills.

Here is an easy eye-hand coordination activity.

– work on hand eye coordination using an everyday item…something you have in your therapy bag right now!

Jumbo Fine Motor Threading Activity– Threading and lacing is a great way to work on hand eye coordination.

Eye-hand coordination activity with letters– Sorting, manipulating, and organizing small items can be a way to boost skills with coordination exercises.

Feather Beading– Threading beads onto feathers is a creative and fun way to improve eye hand coordination skills.

Vision Functions- This includes the actions and abilities of the eyes that allow information to be perceived. Visual functions include visual tracking, visual convergence, divergence, saccadic eye movements, depth perception, nystagmus, disassociated eye movements, eye positioning, teaming, and eye dominance. Here are visual scanning activities.

  • Visual Tracking- The eyes ability to follow a moving target through all fields of vision with smooth, coordinated movements in dissociation; it is also referred to as a pursuit. Here are activities to work on smooth pursuits.

Here are games for visual tracking.

  • Visual Convergence- The eyes ability to follow a moving target from a distance into the midline with smooth, coordinated movements. Convergence is the technical term for “crossing your eyes”. Convergence should be easily maintained for up to 5 seconds. Here are activities to improve visual convergence.
  • Divergence- The eyes ability to follow a moving target from convergence, or near point, out to a far point with smooth, coordinated movements.

Here is more information on convergence efficiency.

  • Saccadic Eye Movements- The ability to move one’s eyes simultaneously between two points of fixation with smooth movements. This skill is utilized for near and far point copying without losing your place. Here are activities for visual saccades.
  • Teaming- Fluid, smooth coordinated movements of both eyes in synchrony. Difficulties with teaming can lead to eye strain and fatigue, headaches, and blurred vision. Visual teaming is a big part of visual efficiency. Here are activities and more information on visual efficiency.
  • Disassociated Eye Movements- The ability to move your eyes separately from your head while it is stabilized. Lack of dissociation can indicate under developed motor patterns and eye muscle imbalances. 
  • Eye Positioning- This refers to the position of the eyes when resting. Both eyes should be in neutral, equal position. However, it is possible that one, or both eyes demonstrates deviation in an outward or inward deviation. This can indicate an eye muscle imbalance.
  • Nystagmus- Nystagmus refers to the reflexive lateral movement of the eyes post rotary stimulation. This should be present only after rotary stimulation. If it is present at rest it is considered abnormal. If it is NOT present or limited post rotary stimulation, it is considered abnormal and may indicate a vestibular disorder.
  • Eye Dominance- This indicates the eye that is the stronger of the two. This eye is typically the same eye as our dominant side for motor tasks.  However, mixed dominance does happen and can cause difficulties. 
  • Depth Perception- Allows us to perceive visual input in multiple dimensions (including length, width and depth), and to judge how far away an object is. Here is information and activities for depth perception.

Visual perception is our ability to make sense of what we see. Visual perceptual skills are essential for everything from navigating our world to reading, writing, and manipulating items. Visual perception is made up of a complex combination of various skills and systems, including sensory processing, visual attention. 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. When visual perceptual skills are delayed or impaired, other areas can suffer, including: learning, social, emotional, self-regulation, behavior, attention, organization, concentration, self-esteem, etc.

Visual Perceptual Skills make up an important component of visual motor skills. For children, these abilities are necessary for so many things…from self-care to fine motor skills, to gross motor skills…all parts of a child’s development require visual perception. There are many pieces to the giant term of “visual perception”. Sub-components include: visual memory, form constancy, visual spatial relationships, visual attention, visual sequential memory, visual figure-ground, and visual closure.

Here are strategies for visual perception and handwriting.

Here are toys and games to improve visual perception.

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. which direction we see them. Here is more information and activities for visual memory.

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 the position of the letters/numbers. Here are fun ways to work on form constancy.

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

Try some of these figure ground activities:

Baby Ice and Bath

Bottle cap letters

Letter Bin

Sight word sensory bin

Rainbow sensory bins

I Spy sight word sensory bottle

Real toy I Spy game

Finger dexterity exercise

Figure ground sight word hunt

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. Here are activities to improve spatial relations.

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. Here is more information on visual attention.

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 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”. Here is a visual discrimination worksheet.

More visual discrimiation activities:

Color matching Elmer Activity

Finger dexterity exercise

Practice “b” and “d” with sensory writing

Color shape discrimination Sort

Coin discrimination

Real toy I Spy game

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. Here is a visual closure activity.

Easter Egg Game- Color Scavenger Hunt

Easter egg game that kids will love while working on color matching, color identification, visual perception.

If you are looking for a fun Easter egg game that the kids will love, then you are in luck. Add this activity to your Easter activities and use up a few of those plastic eggs. This color scavenger hunt uses plastic Easter eggs, and it’s a very fun way to play and learn! Use those plastic eggs to encourage gross motor skills, visual perception, and color learning in a way that kids won’t forget. While the kiddos are playing this Easter game, they are building cognitive skills AND underlying skill areas like visual scanning and other visual perceptual skills.

Easter egg game that kids will love while working on color matching, color identification, visual perception.

We set this Easter activity up years and years ago. (2013 to be exact!) However, it’s one of those activities that stands the test of time. If you’ve got plastic Easter eggs on hand, use them to build skills like the ones we worked on here!

This Easter egg activity helps kids learn colors and learning with a color scavenger hunt gross motor activity


This color scavenger hunt is so easy to set up…and so much fun. Kids can work on identifying color names, and color matching. I wrote different colors on slips of paper and put them into plastic eggs.  The kids got to pick an egg from the bowl and “sound out” the color on the slip of paper.  Ok, my 5 year old sounded out the color with help.  The other two said the first letter of the word and guessed the color.  They were pretty excited to “read” the color on their slip of paper!  

Kids will love this Easter egg game using plastic Easter eggs in a color scavenger hunt activity.
Use this color scavenger hunt with easter eggs to work on color matching and color identification with kids.

An Easter Game Kids will Love

Now for the egg game…So then, they had to run off and find something that was the color of the written word on their slip of paper…and it had to FIT inside the egg.    I sat and waited for them to run back and show me what they found while they tried to fit it in their egg.   (completely genius way for this mom to finish a cup of coffee!)  

Kids can look for objects that match plastic Easter eggs in a color scavenger hunt that allows them them move and play with learning, too.

 They had a little trouble with some things, but this was a fun and different way to work on visual perceptual skills.  Will that little doll fit in the egg?  We weren’t sure by looking at it, but with a little fiddling, she did!   Fitting the eggs together with the little objects inside was a great fine motor exercise.

Kids can look for matching colors in this plastic Easter egg game that helps them with color matching and visual scanning.

  They found something for each color!  

Kids can play this color scavenger hunt game with plastic Easter eggs for a fun Easter game that can be played indoors or outdoors.
Kids can learn color names and work on learning skills like visual scanning, fine motor skills, and gross motor skills with this Easter game.

 This Easter themed play activity could be modified in so many ways for learning words, colors…have fun with it 🙂

Want more ways to play and learn this time of year?

This time of year, one of our more popular products here on The OT Toolbox is our Spring Occupational Therapy packet. The best news is that, this packet has had a major upgrade from it’s previous collection of spring sensory activities.

In the Spring OT packet, you’ll now find:

  • Spring Proprioceptive Activities
  • Spring Vestibular Activities
  • Spring Visual Processing Activities
  • Spring Tactile Processing Activities
  • Spring Olfactory Activities
  • Spring Auditory Processing Activities
  • Spring Oral Motor Activities
  • Spring Fine Motor Activities
  • Spring Gross Motor Activities
  • Spring Handwriting Practice Prompts
  • Spring Themed Brain Breaks
  • Occupational Therapy Homework Page
  • Client-Centered Worksheet
  • 5 pages of Visual Perceptual Skill Activities

All of the Spring activities include ideas to promote the various areas of sensory processing with a Spring-theme. There are ways to upgrade and downgrade the activities and each activities includes strategies to incorporate eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, body scheme, oculomotor control, visual perception, fine and gross motor skills, and more.


One of my favorite parts of the Spring Occupational Therapy Packet is the therapist tool section:

  • Occupational Therapy Homework Page
  • Client-Centered Worksheet

These two sheets are perfect for the therapist looking to incorporate carryover of skills. Use the homework page to provide specific OT recommended activities to be completed at home. This is great for those sills that parents strive to see success in but need more practice time for achieving certain skill levels.
This activity packet is 26 pages long and has everything you need to work on the skills kids are struggling with…with a Spring theme!

Here’s the link again to grab that packet.

Use this Spring Occupational Therapy Activities Packet to work on occupational therapy goals and functional skills with a spring theme.

Super Simple Visual Tracking Tool

Visual tracking is a skill kids need for reading, handwriting, and learning! Visual tracking activities can help kids strengthen this visual processing skill and in easy and fun ways. We made a Visual Tracking Tool that is an easy DIY occupational therapy activity. It is super easy to make and fun to play with, making it a great way to work on visual tracking skills.  We shared an easy way to practice visual tracking with bottle caps not too long ago, and this visual tracking tool will be another creative way for you to work on visual tracking abilities in handwriting, reading, and math number line use.

This visual tracking tool will help kids with handwriting, reading, and math problems, including visually tracking difficulties (pursuits).

Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

What is Visual Tracking?

When there are concerns with reading, writing, copying written work, and other issues related to visual processing concerns, understanding what visual tracking means can be an important place to start. 

We explained a lot about what visual tracking means here.  Visual pursuits are often referred to as visual tracking.  When an object moves across a person’s field of vision, their eye movements maintain fixation.  Visual tracking occurs when a person’s eyes move along a line in a smooth and accurate manner. When a person moves their eyes, there are two types of eye movements that they use to gather information.  

Visual pursuits (tracking) and saccadic eye movements (scanning).  Visual tracking can occur with just the eyes moving or the eyes and head in a combined manner.  Visual tracking depends a lot on visual attention and fatigue.

Here is more detailed information on saccades and how they impact learning.

Signs of Visual Tracking Problems

A child with visual tracking difficulties might see show of these problems in daily tasks:
Loses place when reading.
Must use finger to keep their place when reading or when copying a line of text.
Skips lines or words often when reading and copying in handwriting.
Poor reading comprehension.
Short attention span.
Moves head excessively when reading.

Homemade Visual Tracking Tool for Bilateral Integration

Using this easy tracking tool requires coordinated movements of both hands together, in coordination with the eyes.  integrated movements of both arms and crossing midline is important for laterality and directionality.  These are areas needed in writing and reading letters and numbers without reversals.

This visual tracking tool is a great way to practice smooth pursuits of a brightly colored object as it moves in a line across a visual field.

Visual tracking exercise with only three items to help kids with visual processing skills.

Make a visual tracking tool to help kids with handwriting, reading, and math problems, including visually tracking difficulties (pursuits).

To make your Visual Tracking Tool, you’ll need just a few items:

Amazon affiliate links are included below.

1. Drinking Straw

2. Scissors

3. Wooden Skewer

4. Clay
(We used a single color, but you could use two different colors to extend the use of this tracking tool.  Read more below.)

Use clay to make a visual tracking tool that can help kids with reading and writing.
Make an easy visual tracking activity using wooden skewers!
Make a visual tracking tool using drinking straws.


How to make a Visual Tracking Activity

Cut a small piece from the straw.  Thread it onto the skewer.  Roll a ball of clay and press it onto both ends of the skewer.  Done! You can allow the clay to harden, or use it as is.

This visual tracking tool will help kids with handwriting, reading, and math problems, including visually tracking difficulties (pursuits).

How to use this Visual Tracking Tool:

  • Practice smooth visual pursuit by tilting the skewer from side to side and asking your child to follow the straw with their eyes.


  • Allow your child to use the tracking tool and ask them to follow the straw with their eyes.


  • Use the tracking tool in math by placing it along a number line.  Tilt the skewer from side to side and when the straw stops at a number, ask your child to name the number.  You can extend this activity by asking them to add or subtract numbers that the straw stops.


  • Align the tracking tool under a number line and use the straw as a movable placeholder while the child counts out addition and subtraction problems on the number line.


  • Use the tracking tool in reading by placing the skewer under a line of text.  Move the straw along the length of the skewer as the child reads the words in the sentence.


This visual tracking tool will help kids with handwriting, reading, and math problems, including visually tracking difficulties (pursuits).


Other ways to use this visual tracking tool:

  • Hold the skewer up horizontally in front of the child.  Ask them to look quickly from one clay ball to the other.  You can use different colored clay for each end and say “red” for red clay and “blue” for blue clay as they shift their eyes from the red end to the blue end.  


  • Then, hold the skewer vertically and ask your child to quickly look from the top ball to the bottom ball.  


  • Finally, hold the skewer in a diagonal position and ask them to quickly look from one ball to the other. 


See it in action in the video below.

You will love these visual tracking activities

These Visual Tracking Games and activities are a big hit in therapy or at home. Use them as part of an occupational therapy home program or in therapy planning.
Visual tracking games to help kids with visual processing skillsVisual discrimination activities for kids and vision activities to help with readingEye-hand coordination activities to help kids with the vision skills they need.

Visual Tracking Resources

For more information and specific activities that can address visual attention in fun and meaningful ways, grab the Visual Processing Bundle. In it, you will find 17 digital products, ebooks, workbooks, and guides to addressing various aspects of visual processing, including visual attention. The bundle is valued at over $97 dollars for these products, and includes over 235 pages of tools, activities, resources, informaton, and strategies to address visual processing needs.

For one week, the visual processing bundle is on sale at $29.99. Grab the Visual Processing Bundle HERE.


What is Visual Attention?

What is visual attention

Attention is a hot topic when it comes to learning! There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to visual attention, however. Visual attention is an area of visual processing that is more than just focusing on a task or leaning activity. Visual attention is a visual skill necessary for noticing details, adjusting to patterns, reading, and so much more of the giant visual processing umbrella. Read on to discover what is visual attention and how this visual skill impacts so much of what we do.

Visual attention is a visual processing skill that allows us to notice and focus on details. Some aspects of visual attention occur automatically and immediately, and others require integration of other visual processing aspects such as visual perceptual work, focused vision, retained attention, visual mindfulness, and more.

What is visual attention?

First, it’s important to recognize where visual attention lies in the visual processing umbrella. Visual processing is an aspect that includes the cognitive components, once visual information is received through oculomotor skills and visual acuity.

Visual attention is an area of obtaining visual information and communicating that information with the brain. This collection of information requires several eye mobility skills including: voluntary eye movements, visual fixation, smooth pursuits (or visual tracking) and visual scanning.

Additionally, visual perceptual skills are included in visual attention. These skills allow us to discriminate details and fill in “missing pieces” such as partially obscured portions of the form and to use the “mind’s eye” to visualize those aspects.

About Visual Processing…

For more information on visual processing and the aspects that are a part of visual skills (oculomotor skills, visual perception, visual motor integration, etc.) join us in a free 3-day email series, the Visual Processing Lab, as we discuss each aspect of visual processing with a fun, chemo or bio lab theme!

Visual Attention includes several areas:

1.) Alertness- Defined as “the quality of being alert”, alertness is that watchful and attentive manner of being ready and responsive to visual information. Visual alertness requires focused vision and keenness to a specific object or area in the visual field.

2.) Selective Attention- The ability of noticing and processing specific information while disregarding other, less relevant information describes selective attention. This ability to discern visual information is needed for attending visually to information.

3.) Surrounding Attention- This aspect of attention refers to the surroundings and position in space. An awareness of our body position and the environment happening around us, including distance impacts attention at large.

4.) Mindful Alertness- The ability to be mindful and aware of visual input with a concentrated effort allows attention needed for participating in a visual task. The continuous alertness in a focused state allows us to attend with intention.

5.) Shared Attention- This aspect of visual attention allows us to shift focus between visual input. This can involve filtering of unnecessary information.

What is visual attention? It's a visual processing skill that allows us to read and maintain our place on a line of words. Visual attention allows us to copy written work and notice details. It allows us to recognize faces and letters or words. Visual attention is an important visual skill that many kids struggle with.Learn more here, as well as other information on visual processing.

Visual Attention and Preattentive Features

If visual attention is depiction of and focusing on specific qualities of a form, then preattentive features are basic features of visual information that are automatically noticed by the eyes. These features are easily pulled out of a background or group in a visual display.

Preattentive features include:

  • Color
  • Orientation
  • Curvature
  • Size
  • Motion
  • Depth Cues
  • Vernier
  • Lustre
  • Aspects of Shape

How to work on Visual Attention

For more information and specific activities that can address visual attention in fun and meaningful ways, grab the Visual Processing Bundle. In it, you will find 17 digital products, ebooks, workbooks, and guides to addressing various aspects of visual processing, including visual attention. The bundle is valued at over $97 dollars for these products, and includes over 235 pages of tools, activities, resources, informaton, and strategies to address visual processing needs.

For one week, the visual processing bundle is on sale at $29.99. Grab the Visual Processing Bundle HERE.

Wolfe J. Visual attention. In: De Valois KK, editor. Seeing. 2nd ed. San Diego, CA:
Academic Press; 2000. p. 335-386.