Visual perceptual skills allow us to process and give meaning to what we see using our visual acuity. Visual perception is broken into a variety of sub-skills that all contribute to acquire visual information and store it for future use. These skills are often used concurrently.
Visual discrimination refers to the ability of your child to recognize the features of objects such as shape, orientation, size and color. A skill that requires visual discrimination is being able to not confuse faces that look alike or words that begin with the same letters.
Visual figure ground refers to the ability see an object regardless of the background. This means that you can recognize your dog from the others at the dog park. Or the ability to pick a word out of a paragraph.
Visual Closure refers to the ability to visually complete an object when given only small visual clues and not the full object. It means being able to complete a dot to dot drawing or finish a letter once someone starts it.
Visual memory is a critical skill for academic success as well. It refers to the ability to retain visual information over a given period of time. Kids draw from memory and can replicate an object such as a flower onto a sheet of paper using visual memory.
Visual sequential memory is the ability to recall a series of objects, letters, numbers or other symbols. It's how you remember your social security number and your phone number.
Visual form constancy is the ability to recognize objects as they change size, shape or orientation.
Visual spatial skills are essential to understanding directional concepts and to be able to organize your surroundings. Spatial concepts such as right and left, up and down, back and forth are all the purview of visual spatial skills. Kids develop coordination, balance, athletic ability and rhythm using visual spatial skills.
Visual motor skills (can also referred to as eye hand coordination) are the ability to control movement guided by vision. Visual motor skills affect your whole body, however, not just hands. The skills governed by the visual motor system are too vast to name but include tying shoes, hitting a baseball with a bat, putting a puzzle together, kicking a ball that's been rolled to you and following a hopscotch outline that's been drawn by chalk on the ground. Visual motor skills are critical to early academic success in the form of writing, drawing and using scissors.
Visual motor and perceptual skills are being used at the same time. The brain is busy actively interpreting visual information and coordinating responses to it. It's complexity is far to extensive to explain here, but a review of what to expect when with your child is as follows:
1 to 2 months: looks at toys, objects and faces, begins visually following (or "tracking") them as they move.
2 to 4 months: holds and looks at rattles and toys, reaches for objects using hands.
6-8 months: watches as they transfer toys, reach for toys, shake rattle and bang on table
8-10 months: removes peg from board, bangs blocks together as they gaze in midline in front of their faces
10-12 months: looks at books, explores toys and utensils
12-18 months: imitates a scribble, builds a tower
18-24 months: places pieces in a puzzle
3-4 years: colors with crayon, copies a circle and a cross, cuts a line with scissors
5-6 years: cuts more accurately with scissors, prints name and alphabet, can place small key in lock
Fine motor development is closely related to visual motor and perceptual development as they are so interdependent. To help develop your child's visual skills, consider the following ideas:
1. Encourage scribbling! Use chalk, crayons, pencils and spray bottles.
2. Roll out some play doh. Use golf tees to draw into it.
3. Use stencils to play with sidewalk chalk.
4. Coloring books that start with straight angles then progress to curves. Don't worry about staying in the lines too much, just allow fun!
5. Copying: let your child watch you copy an object using a pencil or a crayon. Let them place their hand on top of yours.
6. Practice following a "road" where the child stays in the line to get from point A to point B.
7. Use lacing cards, very cute and fun practice for kids!
8. Practice tapping and catching a balloon.
9. Use large surfaces such as easels and chalkboards.
10. Draw shapes with a highlighter for child to trace.
11. Invest in some cute stencils.
12. String beads.
13. Dress up some dolls.
14. Bean Bag toss!
15. "Bowling" using old 2-liter soda bottles.
16. Flashlight tag.
The ideas and the fun are endless! By practicing these developmental activities, you will also be simultaneously working on fine and gross motor skills. Most of all, just have fun and be engaged with your child.