Eye-‐Hand Coordination in the Pre-‐School Years: Real Skills Develop!
Three-‐years old is a delightful age. No matter what your child does, it is new and
exciting and greeted with accolades. Then four-‐years old happens. The developmental checklist of skills that should occur by the end of the year can be daunting. Having the eyes and hands working as a team makes acquiring these skills a whole lot easier. As we know, sustained attention is important for EVERYTHING! Especially learning.
The eyes need to direct all of our movements. When vision is coupled with any motor activity, there is a more efficient and effective result. Think of putting a new earring on without a mirror or trying to do something in the dark. It gets done eventually but it takes longer. Or think of the child in the outfield planning to catch the ball but the eyes are looking somewhere else
When your preschool aged child begins to learn skills such as using scissors,
drawing with a paintbrush, markers and catching a ball, you want to be sure that the eyes are directing the activity. Many little ones will smear gobs of paint on a piece of paper while the eyes wander everywhere but the table. Helping your preschooler to guide the hands by looking is not always automatic. Teaching visual focus begins in the crib and requires practice every day.
The trick is to keep your preschooler motivated and challenged. Getting on the floor to play with familiar toys will help him feel confident. Structuring activities so that the eyes have to guide the toys will help build that eye hand connection.
When playing with toy cars and trucks, draw a pathway or spread out strips of paper/fabric to create a roadway. That way he needs to stay on the road. This requires paying attention to where the road is!
Playing with moving objects is another favorite past time. Bopping, big bright, slow moving objects like balloons are perfect. They are slow enough that it is easy for the child to coordinate the motor act of bopping the balloon at precisely the right moment. Faster objects such as tennis balls move too quickly to have immediate success. Kooshes, fabric and foam balls make excellent intermediate challenges.
If your child struggles with the balls listed above, go back to rolling a ball slowly.
Gradually increase the speed and change the directions just a little so she has to
visually pay attention to know where the ball is headed.
As children get older they enjoy things that move in unpredictable ways. That why things in nature, like butterflies, are such a delight. They are visually appealing with bright colors. Butterflies rest on flowers for a few seconds, allowing the child to carefully focus on all the details. Suddenly the butterfly flies off, creating a whole new visual experience!
Bubbles are a treat. The preschooler can blow the bubbles, watch them move and then try to catch them. This requires nice coordination between the eyes, mouth and hands. When chasing bubbles, the whole body gets involved. It is a very integrating activity!
Encourage your preschooler to keep playing on the floor. By sitting in various positions: on the tummy, side lying, sitting and crawling positions, the child will stay interested longer. Assuming new positions also helps make the body become more flexible for bigger motor challenges and motor planning as he develops.
Visual attention is the key not only to strong motor development but learning as well. Keeping your preschooler gazing at you will help build the visual focus necessary for later eye-‐hand activities.
Here are some ways you can play with your preschooler to help encourage
visual attention and visual tracking:
Be sure to be near your child when talking. Exaggeration of expression still intrigues and delights the young child. When the grown-‐up has a wide-‐open mouth in surprise, or a very large pout, your preschooler will keep focused on the unusual facial features to see what will happen next. This extends visual attention. Preschoolers can be quite serious but still have a great sense of humor. They love seeing grown-‐ups do funny things.
Play hand-‐play games of increasing complexity. This helps the child focus on her hands while learning to move them in new ways.
Simple sign language can be introduced. This helps improve fine motor coordination in preparation for writing, as well as building eye hand coordination.
Activities that require the use of hands and eyes are great at this age. Puzzles, board games, arts and crafts all bring the eyes and hands together.
When your preschooler is sitting in a car seat, provide feeling and squeezing type toys for her to hold, along with other manipulative toys. This will help increase the awareness, strength and coordination of the hands for future athletic work (like throwing a basket ball, or squeezing a racquet).
Encourage your preschooler to explore textured surfaces and shaped objects. Finger paints and shaving cream play are terrific for this age group. Tactile stimulation helps build early precepts for later visual spatial reasoning (like figuring out where to run on the soccer field).
When talking to your preschooler, always be looking directly at him and be sure to have him look at you. . That way visual attention will increase, and establishing eye contact with an adult will be come an automatic response or habit. Auditory and
visual attention will be increased! Integration of all the senses occurs. This facilitates motor planning and motor coordination.
When your preschooler is around, put away the iphone and other electronic devises. Give your toddler 100% of your attention!