Hand-eye Coordination and Visual Discrimination Key to Literacy
Hand-eye coordination is a necessary skill for written language and the best way to help your child develop this skill is to let them play with toys and activities that involve looking at, using, and discriminating a-number-of elements.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for your child’s early literacy development is simply to let them play. Turn off the TV and anything battery operated then let your child pick up their toys, build blocks or legos, or manipulate puzzles or game pieces. Not only are you giving your child the gift of childhood, something we so often fail to do in today’s hectic, achievement-oriented world, but you actually are helping them build skills that are key to learning to read and write.
Hand-eye coordination is a necessary skill for written language and the best way to help your child develop this skill is to let them play with toys and activities that involve looking at, using, and discriminating between a-number-of elements. Puzzles are obviously a great activity for this but so are manipulative toys such as blocks and legos.
My son just spent over an hour playing dominos with me. He was setting up complex patterns and then knocking them down — but I didn’t tell him he was engaged in a preliteracy activity. We were just having fun together.
Studies have shown that spending time on hand-eye coordination activities improves children’s ability to learn to read and lessens the difficulty they face during the process. In fact, engaging in a variety of craft activities, which most kids love, can be very beneficial so add play dough, stickers, and glue sticks to your list of educational supplies.
Puzzles help develop hand-eye coordination because learning to control hands and fingers according to information received from sight is a coordination skill that aids children in early attempts at reading and writing. Determining which piece goes where, working to fit pieces into place, by making adjustments, and seeing a sequence develop in an organized pattern can be a great learning experience as well as very satisfying for children.
Puzzles, matching games, and the like are also important to help children learn visual discrimination. Visual discrimination is the ability of the brain to quickly tell the difference among visually similar letters, like “p,” “b,” and “q” or between words such as “was” and “saw.” Students with difficulty making these distinctions often struggle with learning to read, write, and spell. Playing games, engaging in activities, or with toys that help children discriminate among similar objects can be fun for the child and help them master an important preliteracy skill such as sorting change before rolling it to be deposited at the bank. Sure, we could use an electronic sorter, but allow your child to engage in the activity and it is a valuable learning experience for them.
Visual discrimination can often be learned with your child’s existing toys. Matchbox cars, dolls, and action figures all offer the opportunity for your child to learn visual discrimination.
Encourage children to work their wrist and finger muscles as well as work on their coordination and small-motor skills to help prepare them for the handwriting practice in their future. Activities to help with these goals include legos and other building sets, playdough, puzzles, pegboards, beads and other table toys. These fun, natural activities help children improve their cognitive and fine motor skills without frustration or boredom.
Encourage your child to engage in many activities every day that encourage hand-eye coordination and visual discrimination. Don’t suggest the activities to them. Make the toys and manipulatives available to them and they choose them on their own. The activities vary, and they may go an entire week building and rebuilding a wooden train set every day and then the next week their blocks dominate their play time. Some days they may play with both together and pull in other table toys for added fun. It doesn’t matter which activity they choose because you know they are having fun, challenging their imagination, and learning.
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Kristin Anderson Cetone, Reading Specialist & Author