Visual Perceptual Skills

Visual Perceptual Skills

Vision is arguably the most critical of the senses.  According to the American Optometric Association, 80% of learning is acquired through our visual system. While many people are familiar with visual acuity, or the sharpness of your vision at a given distance, our visual system is very complex and uses a variety of skills to help us make sense of our environment. These skills include visual discrimination, visual memory, spatial relations, form constancy, sequential memory, figure-ground, and visual closure. Deficits in any of these skills can result in difficulty in the classroom, on the playground, completing activities of daily living at home, and even in one-on-one interactions with friends and family. The good news is, that just like the muscles in our bodies, the muscles in our eyes can get stronger with practice and repetition.  But remember, our eyes get tired just like our bodies so be sure to take breaks as you are building your visual strength and endurance.

Visual Discrimination

Definition: The ability to identify and recognize the likeness and differences of shapes, forms, colors, and positions of objects.

Below are some activities that address visual discrimination:

  • This website has lots of vision resources. Click here for visual discrimination activities that involve finding differences between similar pictures and matching shapes.   You can print the resources and have your child circle the differences, or you can use a computer or tablet and have them point or tell you verbally.
  •   Worksheets: You can print the worksheets in color or work on a computer/tablet.  Ask your child to identify the differences between the two pictures. Both images should remain visible throughout the entire activity, requiring your child to visually scan between the two pictures.
  • Spot the Difference: This online game asks your child to find the differences between two similar pictures.  There are multiple levels with increasing difficulty. Encourage your child to only use their eyes to scan through the images, rather than the mouse cursor or pointing with a finger.  This will increase the difficulty of the activity. The online format of this game can be highly motivating and engaging, so be sure to encourage your child to take breaks to reduce the potential for eye strain or headaches.
  • Sorting Activities: Have your child sort a variety of items in different ways, for example, size, shape, and color.  You can use just about any item you can think of, legos/blocks, colorful buttons, colorful letters, or even socks when folding laundry.  For example, with colorful buttons, have your child sort them by color, then by size, then by the number of holes.  Sort one of each item as an example before asking your child to begin. Give them a set amount of time for each method of sorting (i.e. 3 minutes) and see how many they can sort in the allotted time.  Record their numbers, and challenge them to increase with each repetition.

Visual Memory

Definition: The ability to recall visual information that has been seen. Visual memory is a critical skill for reading and writing.

Below are some activities that address visual memory:

  • Worksheets: Cover the bottom section while looking at the top. Have your child look at the top section for 5 seconds. Then cover the top section and see how many they can remember when scanning the bottom section.  You can have them point, circle, or tell you verbally. You can make these activities easier or harder by increasing/decreasing the amount of time given to look at the first section.
  • Shapes to Remember
  • Objects to Remember
  • Make Your Own Worksheets: Use stickers to create your own worksheets! Create a top section with stickers, and then mimic the same below adding one to two more stickers (You can increase the number of stickers as your child becomes more proficient with the activity.) Cover the bottom section while looking at the top. Have your child look at the top section for 5 seconds. Then cover the top section and ask your child to tell you the stickers they remember from the top section.  You can have them point, circle, or tell you verbally. You can make these activities easier or harder by increasing/decreasing the amount of time given to look at the first section.
  • Memory Game: Use Memory Game tiles to create your own top/bottom sections, similar to the sticker activity above. Make sure to add items to the bottom section.  You can also play the traditional memory game by laying the tiles face down and requiring your child to find matches. Purchase memory game here.

Spatial Relations

Definition: the ability to process the visual environment and determine the location of objects in respect to oneself.

Below are activities that address spatial relations:

  • Block by Block Worksheet: Purchase our Spatial Relations worksheets here.  Allow your child 5-10 seconds to look at the first image, and then cover it and have them color the same squares on the blank grid to the right.  If this is too difficult, you can leave the first image uncovered while your child works to replicate the squares on the blank grid, and upgrade to covering the first image as they become more proficient.  You can laminate the worksheet, or place in a ziplock bag or page protector and use dry erase markers for repeated use. You can also try rotating the worksheet so the colored circles are in different locations.
  • Create Your Own Worksheets: Depending on your child’s ability, create a 3×3, 4×4, or 5×5 grid and color 3-5 of the squares in different colors.  You can also use dots, stickers, letters, or numbers. Give your child 5-10 seconds (depending on complexity) to look at the grid you created, cover it, and have your child replicate the sample you provided similar to the Block by Block worksheet above.
  • Rush Hour: This game targets problem-solving and many important skills, including spatial relations. Successfully resolving the “traffic jam” will require your child to visually make sense of how the different pieces on the board relate to one another and decide the best strategy for solving the puzzle. Purchase Rush Hour here.


Visual perceptual skills provide us with the necessary information to see and interact with the world around us.  This blog post discussed activities to strengthen visual discrimination, visual memory, and spatial relation skills.  For more information about the remaining four visual perceptual skills, take a look at the blog post titled “Visual Perceptual Skills Continued.”

Contact Chicago Occupational Therapy or call (773) 980-0300 to learn more about our services and how we can help your child flourish and grow.