August 27, 2015 Mary & Suzanne

Eye-Hand Coordination and Visual-Motor Skills

You know that comforting smell of pancakes in the morning. Eyes sparkling and stomach growling, your nose pointing towards the sky as that big inhale takes in the scent spiraling through the kitchen.  You notice the light glow of the batter as it begins to bubble, and slide your spatula along the pan to scoop up the beautifully shaped breakfast treat. SPLAT! Your masterful pancake flip just flopped! Half in the pan, and half now dripping down the side and into the burner, you wonder, “What just happened?” Blame it on the lack of coffee intake, but your eyes and hands had a moment; a moment when they just didn’t work together! It sounds so simple, so easy, and most of us go about our days not even attending to how much we use this skill, until it fails us! Children with eye-hand coordination challenges feel this way a lot. See if any of these questions fit a child in your life.

Does your child avoid crafts, writing or drawing?

When eating, does food seem to land on the table or floor, rather than in your child’s mouth?

Are sports such as tennis, baseball or basketball frustrating?

Does your child seem to need to explore through touch to register where things are?

Blending vision with feedback from the muscles and joints of the arms and hands allows eye-hand coordination to develop.  There are so many components of vision that support this ability, and it is important to think not only about what your child sees, but how your child sees! If you have suspicions that your child may be seeing things differently than others (for example: blurry, double vision, trouble finding things, difficulty tracking), please visit your local developmental optometrist for further investigation!

When we discuss vision here, we will focus on (Ah! See what we did there? Focus, vision….anyway!) being able to smoothly move the eyes to follow an object as it flows horizontally, vertically, toward you and away from you. Everyday examples of this include learning to hit a baseball off of a tee, catching a ball or playing ping- pong (a personal favorite in both of our households!). This is a big deal when so many things in the world are moving, including your child!

Tackling eye-hand coordination can be done in a methodical way. Here is how to tailor an activity to meet your child’s current abilities, and develop them from there!

We have divided our activities into four different levels, increasing in difficulty.

Level 1: Games where the target is still and the child is still.

Level 2: The target moves and the child is still.

Level 3: Games that involve the child moving while the target is still.

Level 4:  The target moves and the child is moving.

Pouring “tea” needs a steady hand. We know this means that feedback from touch, proprioception and vision are making this task possible. The play theme of a tea party adds imagination, motivation, and just plain fun!

Creating a theme, story line, or even just a subtle hint of an idea can be the beginnings of a rich play experience! Mentioning that “Noodles sounded delicious today” was all that was needed for this eye-hand coordination task to develop into a full blown restaurant at the park!

Tracking and batting this suspended ball gets more difficult as the child hits it. As the ball flies faster and more randomly, the visual tracking challenge increases! Pick a number and try to make contact with the ball that many times. Can you beat your record?

In this activity, we hold the bean bag within the child’s reach as she swings. Her goal is to visually track the bean bag as she moves closer and further from it. This involves timing her actions perfectly to grab it when she gets close.

Here’s another simple example of the target being still while the child moves. To take it up a notch, roll the ball slowly toward the child.

In this activity , both the ball and the child are moving. Lightening fast movements are required to catch the ball at the perfect point in the swing arc! We help by timing our throw to make sure this is successful!  Soccer is another great example of the child moving as the ball is moving. Talk about a lot to watch and do!

Here’s one everyone loves! The bubbles are moving and the child moves to pop them! Note: windy days are a bit frustrating for this game! The kids definitely needed to act fast to catch these bubbles!

Local parks and playgrounds can build playful memories and develop eye-hand coordination skills along the way. Funny enough, many of the rules imposed at parks (while they mean well!) can limit the possibilities of developing visual skills! Tonya over at Therapy Fun Zone shares some of these rules!

If you aren’t able to make it to the park in your neighborhood this week, give these alternatives a try!

Home:        

  • Kicking or dribbling a ball as you walk
  • Catching a football while running toward the end zone
  • Hammering golf tees into a styrofoam block (or this version by Lakeshore Learning Materials)
  • Stacking blocks or Legos to build the tallest tower
  • Board games: Jenga, Operation, Don’t Break the Ice (Amazon affiliate links here!)
  • Playing the piano
  • Catching and throwing a ball
  • Hitting a thrown ball with a bat (substituting a balloon allows for more time to visually follow and prepare a reaction)
  • Balloon tennis or volleyball

School:

  • Imitating hand gestures for songs
  • Tic-tac-toe
  • Driving toy cars around on a chalk drawn path or tape line
  • Hand ball, Tetherball, or soccer
  • Your Therapy Source has a HUGE collection of printables focusing on fine motor, visual motor and sensory motor skills definitely worthy of checking out!

Coordinating our eyes, hands, and bodies can open the floodgates to sports, crafts, and classroom successes! Approaching the development of these skills in playful and creative ways can be just what your child needs to tackle what feels like otherwise daunting drills!

After gobbling up that last salvaged pancake from breakfast, hop on those bikes and scooters and head to the park for your family’s daily dose of play! See you there!

*Just a reminder: Our posts contain affiliate links. By purchasing through these links, we get a bit back to help keep our little blog running! Thanks!

 

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