As your exuberant toddler grows, you will be amazed by the new accomplishments achieved every day! Each time you notice a new feat be sure to look at him as you heap praise. Be sure he looks at you as well. These moments are especially important in laying down the foundation for visual attention. Every second you can grab to look at and talk with your toddler is key to building visual focus and the ability to sustain attention. 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 trying to put a new earring on without a mirror or trying to do something in the dark. It gets done eventually but it takes a lot longer. Or think of the child in the outfield planning to catch the ball but the eyes are looking somewhere else
When your toddler begins to explore the world, 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 toddler 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 toddler motivated and challenged. Little ones love moving objects. When they are very young, big bright, slow moving objects like balloons are perfect. As toddlers 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!
Rolling balls slowly for your toddler to grasp, playing with trucks, trains and small motor toys with moving parts, such as ball mazes, allows the child to look, touch and observe as the objects move. Encourage your toddler to play with each toy chosen in various positions: on the tummy, side lying, sitting and crawling positions. This will keep the toddlers interest as well as introduce more challenge. It also helps make the body become more flexible for bigger motor challenges and motor planning as she develops.
Visual attention is the key not only to strong motor development but learning as well. Keeping your toddler gazing at you and the simple games you introduce throughout waking hours will help build the visual focus necessary for later eye-‐ hand activities.
Here are some ways you can play with your toddler to help encourage visual attention and visual tracking
Be sure to be near your toddler when talking and smiling at him. Don be afraid to make funny faces. This will intrigue and delight your toddler and will extend the visual attention. Toddlers have a great sense of humor and especially love seeing grown-‐ups do funny things.
Play simple hand-‐play games such as “Op Shut Them “Whee of the Bus and others. This helps the toddler look at her hands while learning to move them in new ways.
Select just a few toys or common (safe) household objects for your child to play with. When the area is cluttered with toys it is difficult for him to stay focused on one activity.
Making little ramps with a cardboard box for trucks, cars and trains. Cut a hole at both ends of a cereal box to make a tunnel.
Play hide and seek: children love seeing things and then watching them disappear. Simply hiding them under the table or a napkin.
When your toddler is sitting in a car seat, stroller or some other containerized mechanism, provide feeling and squeezing type toys for her to hold, feel and squeeze. 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 toddler to explore textured surfaces and shaped objects. 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 toddler, always have your face in close proximity. That way he will link the sounds of your voice with your face. Auditory and visual attention will be increased! Integration of all the senses occurs. This facilitates motor planning and motor coordination.
When your toddler is around, put away the iPhone and other electronic devises. Give your toddler 100% of your attention!