Visual Motor Skills through Play

As an occupational therapist working in a preschool, my job is to help facilitate engagement in important child occupations (or in other terms, activities that occupy a child’s time), with a focus on school-based activities such as drawing, playing with blocks, completing puzzles, and cutting. Common skills that I work on with students include fine motor, bimanual coordination, visual motor integration, and sensory processing skills. In preschool, it is important to help children build the skills that are necessary to complete more complex tasks that they will encounter in future years, including writing letters and advanced cutting activities.

Children learn best when these skills are embedded in play, which is why Glo Pals toys are perfect for helping children hone in on these skills! Here are some ways in which I as an OT have used Glo Pals tools and toys in my sessions:

1. Visual motor activities using light-up cubes:

Practicing Shape Formation:

  1. Arrange the Light-Up Cubes to form a shape (e.g. a line, circle, cross, square, or triangle) or letter.
  2. First, practice by using your fingers to draw an imaginary line to connect the cubes, then have your child imitate you.
  3. Then have your child use a broken crayon or shortened marker (bonus: smaller utensils help encourage a functional grasping pattern!) to draw lines to connect the cubes to form the shape or letter.

4. Pre-writing skills include tracing and forming strokes that are a prerequisite to writing letters. Benefits of tracing and pre-writing activities include opportunities to increase grip strength, promote an ideal grasp on pencils and crayons, increase endurance for paper/pencil tasks, promote visual tracking of top to bottom and left to right, and increase understanding of spatial concepts and terms “start” and “stop."

Practicing Shape Formation:

  1. Building Towers: Have your child use the cubes to build a variety of towers or structures. Examples include a tower, train, bridge, steps, or pyramid.

    Color Matching: Use Pick-Up Pals tongs to place different colored cubes in a pattern and have your child try to match the pattern. This can be done on a dry surface or in a shallow tub filled with water to add engaging sensory and visual components!

  2. Imitating block structures and patterns are holistic activities that integrate visual-motor skills, fine motor control, spatial awareness, and imitation skills—all of which are foundational for the development of pre-writing and letter-writing abilities. By engaging in these activities, preschoolers are not only having fun but also laying the groundwork for the skills they will use as they progress into more formal writing tasks.

Bead Stringing Practice:

  1. Grab a pipe cleaner (easier) or shoelace (harder) and string it through the opening in the light-up cubes. Encourage your child to make a pattern or string the cubes to make a funky necklace or bracelet!

  2. Stringing the cubes like beads helps encourage bilateral coordination, a skill that is necessary for activities such as cutting, buttoning, and tying. This activity also supports a child’s grasp (when holding onto the string) and hand-eye coordination.

visual motor skills using pick-up pals:

The great thing about tongs is that they are so open-ended and activities can be tailored to your unique child’s interests! Here are some skills you can focus on when using Pick-Up Pals as well as some areas that are addressed during these activities:

Bimanual Skills:

  • Have your child hold a container (such as the Glo Pals Sensory Jar) and use the other hand to pick up the Light Up Cubes using the Tiny Tongs and accurately place them into the container. This helps work on hand-eye coordination and promotes hand + grasping strength!

Crossing Midline:

  • Have your child pick up items on one side of their body and reach across to their other side to release it. The ability to cross midline is crucial for the development of various physical and cognitive abilities including helping children develop a dominant hand, write words across a page, develop connections between the brain's right and left hemispheres, and develop bodily awareness.

Development of a Pincer Grasp:

  • Using tongs requires a precise pincer grip, where the thumb and index finger work together to manipulate the tool. This skill is crucual for tasks like holding a pencil or pickup up small objects.

Sensory Integration:

  • Using tongs combines tactile, visual, and proprioceptive input simultaneously, promoting sensory integration. This integration is crucial for organizing and making sense of the sensory information. The tactile system is engaged when children use the tongs to pick up items in a sensory bin filled with materials such as sand, rice, or other textured objects. The visual system is engaged as children us hand-eye coordination to guide the tongs and correctly orient them around the item. Squeezing the tongs required muscle contraction and proprioveptive feedback, helping children become more aware of the force needed for the task.

Scissor Skills:

  • The Scooper Squid is amazing at introducing scissor skills all wihtout the safety concern of sharp blades. The squid's happy face is a great visual reminder for children to utilize a functional "thumbs up" grasp on the tools, an important position to assume when using real scissors.


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