What is visual motor integration?
Visual motor integration is the ability for your child’s hands and eyes to work together to guide their movements. Their eyes tell their brain how to move, and then their brain tells their hands to move there. Visual motor integration is the ability to incorporate visual information that we perceive with our motor skills in order to correctly execute the movement of our arms, legs, and body.
Visual motor skills are integral to an efficient and coordinated movement which allows your child to successfully engage in daily occupations.
Visual motor integration is important for handwriting, playing, feeding, and much more.
Signs of Visual Motor Deficit or Dysfunction
Visual motor deficits or difficulties may present in a variety of ways.
Your child may have difficulties with staying within the lines when they color, catching or kicking a ball, fastening buttons, tying their shoelaces, as well as many other gross and fine motor activities. These tasks develop throughout toddlerhood and may take time for them to master.
Visual Motor Integration Interventions
If you notice that your child struggles with any of these tasks, pediatric physical and occupational therapists are able to provide visual motor integration interventions.
Visual Motor Activities
Common activities that require the use of visual motor skills include:
- Coloring within the lines
- Copying words/shapes
- Writing within the lines on a piece of paper
- Participating in gross motor activities that require well-time movements such as catching or hitting a ball
These skills work hand in hand with many other skills including oculomotor control, and visual perception to make up visual processing which is the ability to make sense of what we see.
Listed below are 8 different visual motor activities that can help improve visual motor skills. As you can see, there are various activities you can encourage that foster visual motor integration for your child!
1. Gross Motor Activities
- Start with a large ball and pass it slowly so your child has better success and make the task harder by using smaller balls or passing it faster
- Encourage your child to engage in jumping activities such as jumping jacks or jump rope
- Sit in a darkened room with your child and make shapes using a flashlight, encourage your child to copy the shapes
- If you have a swing in your backyard, allow them to swing while you hold a hula-hoop or laundry basket and encourage your child to toss bean bags or stuffed animals into it
2. Paper Activities
- Make raised letters using glitter glue and let your child trace them with their finger once it is dry
- Use a highlighter on the top and bottom of handwriting practice paper to orient your child
- Use paper maze activities such as dot paths and rainbow ladders
- Help your child make origami or paper airplanes
3. Fine Motor Activities
- String large blocks with larger holes and make it harder by using smaller beads
- To practice using scissors, start with simple shapes with large, bold lines and move to more complex shapes
- Make simple shapes on a piece of paper and encourage your child to use pipe cleaners to match the shape
4. Word Searches, “I Spy” Games, and Hidden Pictures
These can improve visual scanning, where the eye looks top to bottom or left to right, which is important to pick out relevant information.
Finishing a maze on paper requires the eyes to tell the hands how to move just the right distance without going over the edge.
6. Coloring by Number
This activity helps guide your child’s hands to color just the right amount to fill in each space without going over the edges.
7. Playing Catch
Visual motor skills aren’t just for the tabletop! Throwing a ball back and forth requires your child’s eyes to tell their hands which way to move when the ball is coming towards them. Modify this activity by using a balloon as it’s bigger and falls more slowly!
Your child’s eyes work to tell their hands which piece goes where, and which way to turn a piece to make it fit together (or into the slot for wooden puzzles).
About the Author
Elena Falcy is a pediatric occupational therapist candidate at NAPA Center. She loves cold days when she can wrap up in a blanket and engage in one of her favorite hobbies, cross-stitching. One of her goals in life is to visit every national park in the United States.
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What visual motor skill activities do you recommend?
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