Play and Development
Debbie Mobbs
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Visual Perceptual Skills

Perceptual Skills rely heavily on our visual skills and how we see things, such as depth (distance), shapes and how they relate to one another (e.g. with puzzles) and size (big vs. small). These skills are very important for succeeding in the classroom and have a close link to handwriting and letter formation.

An important foundation building block for perceptual skills is body image/awareness. It is important for a child to have a good awareness of body movements, knowing one part from another and be aware of the two sides of the body (identifying left and right sides) well as difference between upper and lower body parts.

Building on from the foundation of a good body image, spatial skills begin to develop. These skills are complex and can be broken down into specific areas (such as form perception, figure-ground perception and visual closure to name but a few). In this article we will however be exploring only three of the many visual perceptual skills which assist in a child’s development and learning.

  1. POSITION IN SPACE is the child’s ability to see or identify an object in relation to their own body for example "the cat is in front of me, whilst the chair is behind me". Once a child can use their own body as a point of reference they begin to develop…
  2. SPATIAL RELATIONS which is the ability to see two or more objects in relation to each other. For example when they are putting a book on the shelf, or shoes in their cupboard.
  3. VISUAL DISCRIMINATION is the child's ability to distinguish between similarities and differences between objects.

Children who struggle with these three spatial perception skills will have difficulties such as these:

  • Finding their way around
  • Not understanding concepts such as above / under / next to / through / left / right
  • Difficulty with everyday activities such as putting shoes on the wrong feet and placing books upside down
  • Reading and writing difficulties such as reversing the letters b and d or p and q, or inverting letters n and u or t and f
  • Problems identifying differences and similarities
  • Problems learning the alphabet, reading, writing and spelling

There are a number of activities and games that can be played to assist in developing visual perceptual skills and these include:

  • Building and then completing obstacle courses in the garden or home. These should include movements (always use words to describe the movements) like under, on, through and between.
  • Sorting shapes, objects or letters according to colour, shape, size, formation etc.
  • Constructions games such as puzzles, pattern blocks, sequencing activities
  • Copying patterns such as mosaics or pictures
  • Activity books such as word searches and dot-to-dot are very useful in developing visual perceptual skills

Sensational Kids has a wide variety of fun games and activities that are aimed at promoting the development of visual perceptual skills. Below are just a few with the first 4 being suitable for younger children aged between 2 and 6 years of age, and the rest being suitable for children 7 years and older.

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