When it comes to learning, the eyes have it. At school, some 80 percent of the information your child takes in will be visual based.
That means you’ll definitely want to make and keep those annual eye exams. At the same time, something even more important is going on behind those peepers. Once the visual information goes in, the brain gets to work interpreting what it sees and deciding the next step. That’s called visual processing. It’s easy to see how visual processing skills are crucial to success in school and learning. Kids need these skills to recognize a misspelled word, to notice when math problems on a worksheet switch from addition to subtraction to multiplication, and to spot the correct LEGO piece in a jumbled pile so it can be snapped in place to complete the latest model.
As children develop and reach adulthood, visual processing skills do improve over time. To support your child’s visual processing development, here are some vision-based cognitive activities and games you can do together at home.
Challenge the memory: In addition to classics like Memory and the electronic game Simon Says, here’s one that brings a building challenge into the mix, thanks to the blog Imagination Soup. Create a simple structure with LEGO Bricks, reveal it and give them a minute or so to examine it. Then hide it away and have the child recreate it from memory. (Give yourself and your child a limited, identical set of bricks to work with, or things could get overwhelming, especially if you have lots of LEGOs!)
Lift the ban on screen time: That’s right, plug in the console and fire up the app. Researchers measured subjects who were new to video game play, and after completing a strategy or first-person game an hour a day, five days a week, they showed improvement in their sight-processing abilities — which has a correlation with higher math scores!
Keep family game night alive and well: Off-screen, games can also help with visual processing. With older kids, try games like Boggle, where you have to create many smaller words from one large word as best you can, or Uno, where you have to make split-second choices. Logic puzzles, kid-friendly crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles are also good ways to spend time with kids while benefiting their visual processing skills.
Play letterball: Remember how you used to bounce a tennis ball off the side of the garage? This variation of bounce the ball improves eye tracking and hand-eye coordination. Take a bouncy ball and write a large letter on opposite sides. Take turns throwing and catching it off the side of a wall, calling out the letter you see as it lands and makes its return.
Just a note: This is not meant to take the place of therapy. If you have concerns about your child’s visual processing abilities, it’s important to consult a professional.