Visual Attention Activities for Kids

By Darlene Peer
Improving your child's visual attention can make it easier to learn sight words.
Improving your child's visual attention can make it easier to learn sight words.

Bolstering a child's visual attention ability can help boost grades and your child's confidence. You can help a struggling child by offering enjoyable activities that can sharpen his skills. If you notice your child has continued difficulty with paying visual attention, it might be time to visit an optometrist for a thorough evaluation of his vision.

Perception-polishing Activities

Visual perception involves the skills your child needs to help her analyze, interpret and understand what's going on around her. One of these skills is visual discrimination. Boost her abilities by showing her two pictures, with one picture being complete and the other missing items. She should compare the pictures to see what's missing. Such pictures can easily be found online or might be lurking in her favorite magazine's game section. You can also boost her visual memory by showing her a picture for five seconds and then turning it face down. Ask her to list items that appeared in the picture. The visual closure skill helps young readers recognize sight words as it builds the ability to complete a picture in their minds when they only see a partial picture. Look online for games that show partial pictures, preferably ones that fill in more details to help as time goes by (see References). That will help you monitor progress as time goes by and she gets faster.

Tracking Activities

Tracking skills help the eyes follow something in a smooth line and let your little one follow sentences without losing her place. You can incorporate both tracking skills and hand-eye coordination by placing a peripheral circle game online (see Resources). Have her focus on the center circle. As it changes color, she should touch the corresponding color on the side, without taking her eyes off of the center circle. To improve saccades, which is the eye's ability to move quickly from one target to another, find a quickly moving object and have your child track it by moving only her eyes, not her head. This could be the feed on a news television station, an airplane in the sky or any other object. Playing a line-tracking game can also help you child. Look for coloring books or puzzle books that feature pictures where a child needs to follow multiple lines to determine which kite belongs to which owner or other tangled messes.

Exercises for Focusing

While at school, a child will have to switch between reading something close and looking farther away at the board. One way to improve these skills is to switch between reading something close to your eye and then reading something far away, such as a calendar on the wall. The goal is for your child to eventually hold the closer item only 3 inches from his eyes without double vision. You can also play with a microscope to improve focus and get an idea of your child's ability. Have him focus on a slide until it's crystal clear for him and then check how it looks to you.

Eye Teaming Exercises

These exercises can help poor readers develop eye teaming control so their eyes work together. Find 3D or Magic Eye pictures, where your child will have to relax and look slightly away from the screen or picture. Give her time to adjust and encourage her not to be frustrated if she doesn't see the hidden picture right away. If there's a movie she's interested in seeing, treat her to the 3D version. She won't even realize that she's working to improve her vision.

About the Author

Darlene Peer has been writing, editing and proofreading for more than 10 years. Peer has written for magazines and contributed to a number of books. She has worked in various fields, from marketing to business analysis. Peer received her Bachelor of Arts in English from York University.