Visual Attention Activities for Kids

By Sara Ipatenco
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Visual attention begins to develop during infancy and plays a key role in successful learning. This skill enables a child to focus on and make sense of what he sees. Certain conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, can make visual attention more difficult. However there are activities that can boost your child's visual attention skills, which, in turn, will help improve his academic abilities in the classroom.

Record An Attribute

Visual attention activities that require your child to focus on and record a specific attribute can improve his ability to process visual stimuli, says clinical psychologist Grad L. Flick, Ph.D. A simple activity is to remove the joker from three decks of cards and shuffle them well. Place one card, face up, on the playing surface and have your child quickly identify the color of the card. On a piece of paper divided into two columns, one for red cards and one for black cards, let your child keep tally of the card colors. Continue placing cards, face-up, one per second, for a period of one minute.

Hunt and Find Activities

Hunt-and-find activities and books, such as the ones in the "I Spy" or "Where's Waldo" series, are an entertaining way to sharpen your child's visual attention to detail and help him visually process information. Any children's book will do, however. Ask your child to choose a book, then have him go through the book pointing out a specific letter, suggests Kenneth A. Lane, an optometrist and author of "Developing Ocular Motor and Visual Perceptual Skills." This activity stimulates the transient system, which enables a person to make sense of what he's seeing. This system is often impaired in children with visual learning problems such as dyslexia.

Pattern Play

Asking your child to identify and complete colored patterns is another effective way to boost visual attention as it requires her to notice similarities and differences between like items. Collect an item, such as beads or buttons, in two or three colors. Lay out a pattern on the table, such as blue bead, pink bead, blue bead. Have your child study the pattern and complete it by adding the correct bead in the series.The key is to use just two or three colors; using too many can backfire by confusing a child and making it harder to complete the pattern, Lane notes.

Matching and Memory Games

Matching and memory games require children to focus their attention on visual stimuli so they can identify two identical images. The fact that they must also remember the location of matching items improves visual attention, too. Play the game the classic way by placing two of each image face-down on a table. Have the child flip the cards over one by one, collecting sets that are identical. For younger children, lay all of the cards face-up and asking your child to choose two that are identical. Having your child choose the two identical pictures from a group made up of four or five similar pictures is another way to boost visual attention.