Does your child or a child you love struggle with visual processing skills? These are skills that our brain uses to make sense of what we see around us. They are critical to learning in all areas of life, but are particularly important to learning math, reading, and writing. There are some fun ways to improve these skills without a child realizing that he is “working”. Below are some fun games and activities that would make great birthday, Christmas, or any time gifts!
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Visual discrimination is the ability to tell the difference between two pictures or objects, such as color, shape, or size. It also includes the ability to see the difference between p and q or b and d or words that start with the same letters such as where and when.
Spot It: There are several variations of this game, even an NHL one that we own…because hockey! It only takes about 5 minutes to play a game and is easy to take with you, so perfect for waiting at restaurants and in other similar situations. There are five different ways to play it and it can be played with 2-8 players. The goal of the game is to pick the same picture out of a group on multiple cards despite it being a different size or turned a different way. (This is also a great game for strengthening Form Constancy and Figure Ground skills, see below.) Suggested for ages 7-11.
Blink: This is another quick game that travels well on the go. Two players race to get rid of all of their cards by matching them to the cards in front of them based on color, shape, or number of shapes on the card. You can also play a solitaire version if a child needs more practice without the pressure of competing with another person for a place to put their cards. You can set up the game as normal and then see how many cards one child is able to play before he runs out of ‘moves’. Suggested for ages 7 and up.
Dominoes: Not only does this game strengthen visual discrimination skills, but it also improves a child’s number sense skills by helping children learn how to visualize numbers. (You can read more about this in Visualizing Numbers: A Key Skill for Math.) Players take turns matching the number patterns on their dominoes to the ones already played on the table. Suggested for ages 8 and up.
Set: Is similar to Blink in that you are matching cards by various characteristics. Set uses four characteristics (shape, color, pattern and number) compared to Blink’s three. However, you can remove some cards and play with just three characteristics if an easier level is needed. Cards are laid out on the table and players compete to find sets of three based on the characteristics. In our family, we play cooperatively, all working together to find sets of three. Suggested for ages 6 to adult.
Qwirkle: This game for 2-4 players takes longer, up to 45 minutes, and involves players matching shape tiles based on different characteristics and then playing them similar to how one would play tiles in Scrabble. It can be played from a young age and moves will then become more sophisticated as children mature. Suggested for ages 6 and up. (This is also a great game for strengthening Figure Ground skills, see below.)
Figure ground is the ability to pick out important information in a busy background. You use this skill when finding something you lost or looking for information on the page of a book or a screen. Qwirkle (shown above) is a great game for this, as well as these activities:
Puzzles: Jigsaw puzzles are great for children to strengthen their visual skills. It is important to use trial and error to pick a puzzle with a small enough number of pieces that your child will feel confident in completing it and doesn’t lose interest. Ravensburger is a great quality brand with heavy duty pieces and this planet puzzle is a fun one to start with to see if your child may need less or more pieces. Suggested for 8 years and up.
Chutes and Ladders: This board game is for 2-4 players, ages 3-7. However, I found that children who struggle with their visual processing skills struggle with playing it at the younger ages. But, it is a fun way to strengthen these skills as they get a little older. Players move their pieces around a board sometimes going up ladders and down chutes until they reach the end.
Connect Four: The goal is for players to play 4 of their colored chips in a row. They will need to pick their color out of a grid of pieces to determine where they should play their next piece. Suggested for ages 6 and up.
Swish: Players match colored balls to hoops by stacking transparent cards on a layout of 16 cards. Suggested for ages 8 and up.
Form constancy is the ability to know a shape is the same even when turned a different way or when it is a different size. We use this skill when we recognize a word is the same word in different types and sizes of fonts and in different places on the page. Spot it (shown above) is a great game for this, as well as these activities:
Pattern Play: This activity is for individual play and gives you pictures of patterns, which increase in difficulty and you need to use the rectangular blocks with angled ends to build the patterns. Suggested for ages 3-50.
Terzetto: A two player game, where you shake a shaker and it gives you a pattern of marbles that you have to copy and place upon the board. Strategy is involved in where you place your pattern so that everything fits. Suggested for ages 8 and up.
This is the ability to visualize the complete whole of an object, letter, number, etc. when part of it is missing or covered. This skill is used in reading, especially reading sight words, so the child does not have to process every letter to understand what the word says.
Blokus: Two-four players take tiles of various shapes and sizes and have to play them on the board so that only the corners are touching corners of same colored pieces. Suggested for ages 7 and up.
Visual Memory Skills:
Visual memory skills include remembering a newly learned word later in the story, remembering what has been read, following a multi-step direction, and copying information from a board or screen to paper.
Q-bitz: Can be played alone or with up to 4 players. The goal is to place your blocks to copy a pattern. If playing with others, speed wins. Suggested for ages 3 and up.
Memory: Any kind of memory game is great for working on visual memory. If your child struggles, play with less cards. Another adaptation is to place one set of matches in one group and the second set of matches in another group so the child just has to pick one card from each group to attempt to make a match. This game below is suggested for ages 5-8.
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