top of page

Near Me

Pediatric Therapies  

Near Me

Pediatric Therapies  

Vision Therapy Exercises for Kids

A Full Occupational Therapy Guide

Start here...

Vision skills are the most underrated area that healthcare professionals and teachers overlook in children. We're not just talking about having 20/20 vision, but how the eye muscles function and how the brain processes this visual information.

 

When a child's vision is affected, they will struggle with reading, handwriting, and sports.

This vision therapy exercises guide will show you the signs to look for and the vision therapy exercises for kids that you can do at home if you don't have access to an occupational therapist or vision therapist. The activities we'll cover today are engaging for all types of children, including those diagnosed with autism and/or ADHD. These vision therapy exercises aim to enhance your child's visual skills, strengthen their eye muscles, and improve their focus, coordination, and cognitive abilities.

What to Expect in This Guide

1) Eyes Working Together

Eye teaming is when both of your eyes work together like a team to look at the same thing at the same time.

Top 3 Signs of Eye Teaming Difficulty in kids:

  1. Closing one eye or squinting when trying to see things, especially up close or while reading.

  2. Tilting the head to one side frequently when reading or watching TV, to help focus better.

  3. Complaining of seeing double when looking at objects or text.

Home Vision Exercises for Eye Teaming:

  • Using Binoculars in a Scavenger Hunt: Encourages kids to coordinate their eyes to focus on objects at varying distances around the house or at a park. (Kids Binoculars - Affiliate Link

  • Reading 3D Books: Engages both eyes to work together to perceive depth.

  • Playing Flashlight Tag: a game where kids use a flashlight to "tag" others or toys by shining the light on them in a dark space.

What is Eye Control?

Eye control skills, also known as oculomotor skills, involve the physical movements of the eye, such as tracking, focusing, and aligning the eyes properly to see clearly and interact with the environment effectively. These skills are crucial for tasks that require precise eye movements, like reading, playing sports, and navigating spaces.

5 Types of Eye Control

  • Description

    This is when both of your eyes look at the same thing together to make one clear picture.

  • Description

    This is when your eyes move smoothly to follow things that are moving, like a flying ball.

  • Description

    very fast jumps that your eyes make when looking from one thing to another.

  • Description

    Focusing on objects at different distances

  • Description

    Vergence is the ability of your child's eyes to move together, either inward or outward, to focus on objects at different distances. It helps them see clearly and judge how far or near things are.

Top 5 Risk Factors for Vision Problems

  • Developmental Diagnoses: Medical Diagnoses like Autism and ADHD can be associated with visual processing issues.

  • Genetic Factors: Family history of vision problems or eye complexities.

  • Premature Birth: Prematurely born infants often have developmental issues, including those affecting the eyes.

  • Excessive Screen Time: Prolonged exposure to screens can strain the eyes and affect visual development.

  • Poor of Eye Care: Not receiving regular eye exams can delay the detection and treatment of vision problems.

Vision Definition:
Eye Control and Brain Interpretation

The visual system includes both motor and perceptual components. The motor part involves the physical actions of the eyes, such as focusing and moving. The perceptual part is how the brain processes and interprets what we see from these movements. Together, they allow us to understand and interact with our surroundings.

2) Eye Following 

Eye following, also known as eye tracking, is following movement smoothly with your eyes, like a flying bird, while eye teaming, as mentioned earlier, is coordinating both eyes to work together.

Top 3 Signs of Eye Tracking Concerns:

  1. Frequent Loss of Place: The child loses their place often while reading or skips lines.

  2. Difficulty Following Moving Objects: Struggling to track objects in motion, such as balls in sports.

  3. Finger Pointing: Using a finger to guide their eyes when reading to keep place.

IMPORTANT: Above 7 years old, kids move only their eyes not their head when tracking moving objects. 

Best activities for eye tracking:

  • Balloon Chase: Blow up a colorful balloon and have your child follow it with their eyes as you move it around the room. Encourage them to track and tap the balloon's movements smoothly and without losing focus.

  • Bubble catch: Blow bubbles and have your child catch them with the same bubble wand as they fall.

  • Magnetic Marble Run: Have your child create a magnetic track and follow a marble with their eyes as it completes the track, keeping their head still.

What is Visual Perception

Visual perception is how your brain makes sense of what you see with your eyes. It helps you recognize things, understand where they are, and notice details like colors and shapes.

7 Types of Visual Perception

  • Description

    Remembering things you see, like pictures or letters.

  • Description

    Remembering things in the order you see them.

  • Description

    Knowing that a letter is the same even if it looks a bit different, like if it’s bigger or turned around.

  • Description

    Being able to find an object even when it’s mixed in with other things (Ex. Inside drawers, pantry, backpack).

  • Description

    Understanding where things are, like knowing which object is closer.

  • Description

    Figuring out what an object is, even if you can only see part of it.

  • Description

    Telling the difference between objects, like different shapes and colors.

3) Rapid eye movements 

Saccades are the very fast jumps that your eyes make when looking from one thing to another.

NOTE: The difference between saccades and eye tracking is that saccades are quick jumps between two points, while eye tracking is smoothly following a moving object.

Top 3 Signs of Difficulty with Saccades:

  1. Difficulty reading because they lose their place.

  2. Overshooting or undershooting targets.

  3. Frequently needing to use a finger or marker to follow along when reading.

IMPORTANT: If a kid often loses their place while reading, it might be a tracking problem if they can't smoothly follow the words in a sentence. If your child loses their place going from the end of a sentence to the beginning of the next line, it could be a saccade issue.

Best Vision Activities for Saccades:

  • Word Jump: Place two flashcards with words or pictures at eye level but several feet apart. Ask the child to quickly look from one to the other as you call out the word or describe the picture.

  • Alphabet Ball: Toss a ball with a letter written on it to the child. Ask them to read the letter they see just before catching the ball.

  • Color Spot Jump: Create a 3x3 grid on a wall, each square containing a different color, placed one arm's length from the child. Ask the child to quickly look at the color you name without moving their head.

1) Visual Memory

Visual memory involves the ability to remember what one has seen, like remembering the face of a new friend you just met at school, or when playing a memory game. 

Signs for Visual Memory Struggles:

  1. Difficulty recalling shapes, symbols, or characters.

  2. Struggling with spelling or recognizing familiar places.

Activities for Visual Memory: 

  • Match the Cards: Use a deck of playing cards or grab your deck of matching cards. Place the cards face down and have your child flip them over two at a time to find matching pairs. Encourage them to remember the position of each card to make successful matches. Check out this memory game - Affiliate link. 

  • Memory Recall Stories: Create stories with a sequence of events, including objects or characters that your child needs to remember. After telling the story, ask them to recall and model the details in the correct order.

4) Near and Far Focus 

Focusing on objects at different distances is known as accommodation. By practicing near and far focus exercises, you can help your child develop better focus and eye coordination.

Top 3 Signs for Concerns with Accommodation:

  1. Frequent Squinting: When trying to see clearly either up close or at a distance, the child often squints.

  2. Headaches: The child frequently complains of headaches after tasks like reading or looking at distant objects.

  3. Holding Objects Too Close or Far: The child may hold books very close to their face or prefer to sit closer to or farther from the TV than usual.

Fun Activities to Promote Accommodation Skills:

  • Book and Window Game: While reading a book, periodically pause and have the child look up from the book to identify an object outside a window, then return to reading.

  • Focus Switch: Place a small object near your child and another object farther away. Ask them to focus on the near object for a few seconds, then quickly shift their focus to the far object. Repeat this exercise several times, gradually increasing the speed of focus switching.

5) Inward and Outward

Vergence is the ability of your child's eyes to move together, either inward or outward, to focus on objects at different distances. It helps them see clearly and judge how far or near things are.

Top 3 Signs of Vergence Difficulties:

  1. Avoiding Close-Up Tasks: If vergence is challenging, children may avoid activities that require focusing up close, like reading or drawing.

  2. Double Vision: Your child may complain about seeing double, especially when looking at close objects.

  3. Eye Strain or Headaches: After reading or doing other close-up activities, your child might experience discomfort or headaches.

Home Eye Exercise for Vergence:

  1. Have the child hold a small preferred toy at arm's length, and focus on the toy.

  2. Slowly move the toy toward the child's nose until the pencil appears double or blurs.

  3. Then move the toy back to the starting position.

 

NOTE: Eye muscles are smaller, so they fatigue quicker - only work on this for 5-10 min.

2) Visual Sequential Memory

This skill allows a child to remember visual details in the correct sequence, like recalling the order of colors in a game of "Simon Says" (Affiliate Link) or recalling your phone number.

Struggles in Visual Sequential Memory:

  1. Trouble following multi-step instructions.

  2. Difficulty remembering the order of letters in words.

Activities for Visual Sequential Memory:

  • Sequencing Story Cards: Provide cards with parts of a story or a sequence of actions. Have the child arrange them in order to tell the story as it should logically unfold.

  • Recreating Patterns: Use colored blocks or beads to create a pattern. Show it to the child briefly, then have them recreate the pattern from memory.

3) Visual Form Constancy

This skill helps children recognize forms and objects regardless of their context, size, or orientation (Ex. Recognizing that a door is a door, whether it's open, closed, or seen from a different angle.)

Struggles in Visual Form Constancy:

  1. Difficulty recognizing the same word or object in a different font or color.

  2. Challenges in identifying shapes or letters that are rotated, upside down, or flipped.

Activity for Visual Form Constancy:

  • Finding Objects: Take picture of their preferred toys, and make them bigger, smaller, change the background colors, and hide them around the house for them to find.

4) Visual Figure-Ground

This skill helps children distinguish objects from their backgrounds, crucial for focusing on specific elements in busy scenes. For example, finding a lost pencil in a messy drawer. 

Signs: 

  1. Trouble locating objects among clutter.

  2. Difficulty focusing on a task without being distracted by the background.

Activities for Figure-Ground

  • I Spy Games: Find specific objects in crowded pictures.

  • Where's Bluey: Engage your child in finding Bluey in the complex and detailed scenes, which helps hone the ability to distinguish important details amidst visual noise. Affiliate link here

5) Visual Spatial Relations

This skill involves understanding the positions of objects in relation to oneself and to each other. For example, your kid understands that their shoes are under the table, not on it. 

Signs: 

  1. Difficulty arranging puzzles correctly.

  2. Challenges in tasks requiring understanding of up, down, or sideways orientations.

Fun Activities for Spatial Relations

  • Mirror Drawing: Draw a shape seen in a mirror, focusing on its orientation and placement.

  • Building a Castle: Replicate a block structure from a model, paying attention to size, and orientation.

6) Visual Closure

This skill allows children to recognize objects or forms even when the whole image isn't visible. For example, recognizing a cat in a partially completed puzzle even when some pieces are missing.

Signs: 

  1. Difficulty identifying common objects in a messy drawer or pantry.

  2. Struggles with completing partially hidden or incomplete images.

Fun Activities for Spatial Relations

  • Partial Drawings: Identify drawings where key parts are missing.

  • Jigsaw Puzzles: Solve puzzles with missing pieces.

7) Visual Discrimination

This skill helps distinguish between similar objects or shapes, vital for reading and math. For example, telling the difference between the letters "b" and "d" when reading or writing.

Signs: 

  1. Mixing up similar letters or numbers.

  2. Difficulty sorting similar items.

Fun Activities for Visual Discrimination

Put it Together - Visual Motor Integration

Visual motor integration involves coordinating eye movements, visual perception and body movements. By practicing visual motor integration activities, your child can improve at connecting all the skills we have reviewed today.

Simple Exercises to Try at Home:

  • Navigation Game: Have your child participate in a navigation game where they read and follow written instructions to find specific spots around the house or park. Start by writing directions like "Walk to the kitchen, take a left through the pantry to the bottom shelf, and find the cookies on the right." Then, let the child write directions for the parents, enhancing their reading, direction-following, and writing skills.

  • Word Search Puzzles: Give your child word search puzzles to complete. This activity requires them to scan a grid of letters to find words, integrating visual scanning with the fine motor skill of circling or highlighting words. This enhances both visual perception and hand-eye coordination. Fun activity book - affiliate link

  • Color by Numbers: This activity involves coloring within designated areas based on numbered instructions. It helps enhance fine motor control while requiring the child to visually distinguish between different sections and match them to corresponding colors.

  • Obstacle Course Challenge: Create an obstacle course indoors or outdoors that involves various activities requiring hand-eye coordination. Include tasks such as throwing balls into targets, tossing rings onto poles, or passing objects through hoops

  • Playdough Sculpting: Provide your child with playdough and ask them to sculpt specific objects or shapes using their hands and fingers. This activity enhances fine motor skills and requires coordination between visual perception and motor movements

Conclusion

Incorporating these fun and engaging vision therapy exercises into your child's daily routine can make a significant difference in their visual skills and overall development. Remember to make the activities interactive and enjoyable for them, ensuring a positive and rewarding experience.

Occupational therapy based exercises are an effective way to improve your child's visual skills while having fun at home. The activities we've explored in this article, from eye tracking exercises to visual motor integration tasks, provide a comprehensive approach to enhance your child's visual abilities. By incorporating these exercises into their daily routine, you can help your child develop stronger focus, coordination, and cognitive skills.

Remember, every child is unique, and it's essential to consult an eye care professional for personalized advice and recommendations tailored to your child's specific needs.

Frequently Asked Questions from Parents

Can eye exercises improve vision in kids?

Yes, eye exercises can improve vision in kids by helping strengthen the eye muscles and improving eye coordination. Regular practice of these exercises can enhance visual acuity, eye tracking, and focusing abilities. However, it is important to note that these exercises should be done consistently and under the guidance of an occupational therapist, vision therapist or eye care professional.

Who can perform vision therapy?

This is a frequent parent question. Vision therapy can be conducted by various professionals who specialize in eye care and visual development. This includes occupational therapists, vision therapists, and the eye doctor such as optometrists who have training in this specialized field. These practitioners use tailored exercises and equipment to improve visual abilities and eye coordination.

Sources: 

bottom of page