As a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, one area we often support with children are visual skills. This includes ocular motor skills (eye movement skills) visual motor skills (eyes and hands working together) and visual perceptual skills (ability to organize and interpret information seen.)These skills are essential to develop as they are a foundation for reading and writing development in the school environment. One of the most asked questions I get from parents are how to support their kids at home with these skills in a fun way, especially this time of year with the holidays right around the corner and parents are looking for toy and game ideas. The good news is, there are so many great toys and games that support visual skills! Here are a few of my favorites:
*this post contains Amazon affiliate links for ease with finding recommended toys and games
Fisher Price Piggy Bank
This is a great toddler toy for learning early puzzle skills, fit the coins into the hole and the pig will make sounds. You can also use this in the off position if you would not like the sound to play. I use this toy all the time with my toddlers and they love it! This is a wonderful toy for early visual perceptual and fine motor skills! This toy is also great for color identification and early counting skills.
Melissa and Doug Sound Puzzles
Puzzles are great for visual perceptual and problem solving skills! Start with wooden single piece puzzles with matching pictures underneath, and slowly work up to the multiple piece puzzles without the matching picture beneath. The kids I work with love these Melissa and Doug sound puzzles as they make a sound once the piece is put in which can be more motivating and fun for puzzle completion! These are great starter puzzles as they have the matching picture underneath. I often will use puzzles with tunnel activities (put pieces on one side and puzzle board on the other side) or hide puzzle pieces in a bin of rice or beans for some added sensory play.
Battat Sound Puzzle
This is a GREAT first shape sorter as it only has 3 shapes and the sound is motivating for kids to get the shape correct. My daughter was not interested in shape sorters until I brought home this one….she loved using it and this has helped her to now be able to complete more challenging shape sorters. Shape sorters are a great for developing visual perceptual skills and are a good pre puzzle activity.
Melissa and Doug Shape Sorter Dump Truck
I love toys that serve multi functions! This toy is a shape sorter which is great for working on visual perceptual skill development and fine motor skills. I also love that it has a play component and is a toy dump truck as well, kids love having the shapes come toppling out of the back of the truck! Placing the correct shape in the designated slot is great for working on problem solving skills as well!
Pre School Aged:
Spot It Jr
This is a great game as it comes in a variety of themes so you can choose one that is of interest to your child (ie: Disney’s Frozen, MBL) It also comes in a Junior Version with larger more basic pictures (animals) for younger kids to locate, as well as alphabet, number, and shape versions too. This is a great travel friendly game as the cards come in a small canister that can easily fit in bags and purses for easy entertainment when going out to a meal or when traveling. You also get a bonus of working on container opening and closing for hand manipulation.
Lego Duplo Car Building Set
I love Legos! They are wonderful for fine motor development, I also love this set because kids can build basic cars/trucks to match pictures provided, which is great for visual perceptual skills!
This is a great starter dominoes set, and I love the fruit theme. My daughter who is 4 1/2 was able to pick up this game immediately and really enjoyed it. An added fine motor bonus is lining up the dominoes and then knocking them down in a line. You can also incorporate some fruit play/tasting as well and have the kids take bites of the fruit they are using for the dominoes game while playing the game. This is a nice game to also work on counting skills and supports with visual skills of visual scanning to find your matching picture (an important pre reading skill.) This game is compact and great for travel, it comes in a nice zipper case to add in some zipper practice as well. Such a fun game to work on a variety of skills!!
Learning Resources Shape Sorting Cupcakes
This is such a great multi functional toy! I love that this toy works on visual perceptual puzzle skills by having 2 pieces to each cupcake with matching shapes that fit together. The muffin tin also has the correlating matching shape to the muffin shape. I love that this is also a great pretend play toy for mealtime fun and creative play! A great addition to food play activities!
These fun activities are great for younger kids or children that have trouble with ball skills. Practice tossing/catching scarves, balloons, or popping bubbles. These activities work on visual tracking and visual motor skills/hand-eye-coordination in a play based environment.
Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Magnetic Pattern Blocks Set
As an OT I love using tangrams for visual perceptual skill development with my kids. As a mom, I love this set for traveling- it comes with a magnetic board and easy carry case. This is my daughters newest favorite travel activity!
Miffy Hide and Seek
My daughter’s new favorite game….. this is a fun twist on hide and go seek, hide the talking bunny and use the picture cards as hints to where the bunny is. This is a wonderful game for using your visual scanning skills and also problem solving skills and the kids love the sounds the bunny makes! This is a favorite with my preschool aged kids!
This is a good game for a child to play on his or her own to try to beat his/her last score, also can be used as a team building game. Good for 1st graders and older as loud sound when game finishes might startle younger kids. For kids with sensitivity to sound, it can be played in “off” mode. This game also comes in a smaller travel version size as well!
This game can be easily modified and played in a variety of ways–when played solo: one player can roll the dice and match his card, he keeps rolling until all the design pieces needed are achieved. With multiple players, you can take turns creating the designs, or use a stop watch to see who can create the design the quickest. This game is great for a variety of skill levels, as there are various colors of cards that differ in degree of difficulty/amount of dice used. As an added bonus, I often times will have the children try to draw the picture in the card after they build it with the dice, a great way to sneak in some visual motor skills as well!
This is a fun early visual perceptual game for pre school and early elementary aged kids! Be the first to match your pieces to the picture card! This game could be played individually or up to 4 players.
Rush Hour Jr
This is a great game for visual perceptual and problem solving skills! First, set up your cars to match the picture model, then problem solve to get your car out of the traffic. A nice single player strategy game!
Get your colored pieces into the frogs mouth! This is a great game for visual motor skills development! It works on finger isolation skills-use your pointer finger to retract the lever to aim your colored game piece into the moving mouth target. This game is for up to 4 players so it is also great for social interaction skills development too! It can be graded down by removing the frog head piece and work on just aiming the game pieces into the circular target.
I hope you found this list of toys and games helpful! If you have any other toys or games you like for visual skills, I’d love to hear what your favorites are!
by Kim Heyer OTR/L