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What are some good games to encourage visual development in my child?

Hi there!  Dr. Tamburro here with you this week to answer for this week’s episode of EVA QandA!  This week’s question is, “What are some good games to encourage visual development in my child?

With COVID-19, social distancing and distance learning upon us, many parents are looking around their homes for ideas on educational activities and games. As developmental optometrists, we can help to guide you in choosing activities that help to incorporate vision, and in turn may help with areas of gross/fine motor, and/or learning.

When choosing a visually oriented game, or activity, we often recommend parents to encourage physical activities which require balance, muscular coordination, controlled body movements in the absence of motor overflow, and eye-hand coordination. It is through these experiences that a child is helping to develop their visual system. The use of building blocks, puzzles, and similar highly spatial/visual manipulation materials should also be encouraged, making sure that the task demands should be kept simple enough to be within the child’s ability to achieve.  These hand- on tasks help to develop the binocular, ocular motor, and perceptual abilities which will be used well into adulthood.

The list below is a compilation of the recommendations from the American Optometric Association, and games often recommended to our patients, with the proper adult supervision. It is important to realize each child is an individual and their abilities may vary from the ages below:

  • Birth through 5 months
    • Sturdy crib mobiles and gyms
    • Bright large rattles
    • Rubber squeak toys
  • 6 to 8 months
    • Stuffed animals
    •  Floating bath toys
  • 9 months
    • Cardboard books
    • Take apart toys
    • Snap lock beads
    • Blocks
    • Stacking/nesting toys
  • 1-year olds
    • Bright balls
    • Blocks
    • Zippers
    • Rocking horses
    • Riding toys to push with ones feet
    • Bubbles (to be blown by adult)
  • 2-year olds
    • Pencils, markers, crayons
    • Bean bag/ring toss games
    • Peg hammering toys
    • Sorting shapes/sizes toys
    • Puzzles
    • Blocks
    • Popping/Blowing bubbles
  • 3-6 years
    • Building toys with large snap together components
    • Stringing beads
    • Puzzles
    • Pegboards
    • Crayons/finger paint/chalk
    • Modeling clay
    • Simple sewing cards
    • Large balls
    • Match up shape toys
    • Tricycle
    • Connect the dot games
    • Sticker boots/games
    • Games such as:
      • Memory
      • Parquetry pals
      • Topple
      • Jumbling tower/ jenga
      • Color code
      • Katamino
      • Operation
      • Jack of straws
      • Pathwords
  • 7 and older
    • Bicycle
    • Jump ropes
    • Pogo sticks
    • Roller skates
    • Different size and shape balls
    • Target games
    • Puzzles
    • Remote controlled toys
    • Timed shape/sorting games
    • Frisbee
    • Games such as:
      • Suspend
      • Rush hour
      • Laser maze.

Some ideas that can be fun for all ages and can be adjusted to your needs that incorporate vision:

  • While going for a walk create a scavenger hunt
    • Ex: have each member of the family find something the color of the rainbow (red stop sign, yellow fire hydrant etc)
    • Ex: the first bird, squirrel, bunny, dog, cat
    • Ex: items that begin with the letter “ T”
  • While outside help your child to walk on a curb, or cobble stone as a “balance beam”
  • Chalk drawings/ hop scotch
  • Catch
  • Mother May I/Red light green light
  • Freeze Tag
  • Memory Game (If you do not own one, taking a piece of paper and cutting it into equal sized shapes, draw shapes/numbers/letters/sight words depending on your child’s age and ability)
  • BUBBLES
  • Color sorting (with anything in your home from sprinkles, to finding objects in a toy box and separating in piles)
  • Music Parade: with instruments or pots and spoons have a parade and see if you can follow the leaders beat
  • Safari: hide stuffed animals around your home and with your hands as binoculars (or home made toilet paper roll binoculars) go on a safari and find them all.
  • Shoelace stringing: punch holes in shoe box, or paper and lace a string
  • Pennies in a bank: if you don’t have a piggy bank handy, cut a hole in the bottom of a cup, and allow your child to place pennies in the hole trying not to touch the sides.
  • Card games: Go Fish, War, Rummy etc.

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