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What are perceptual skills?

Perceptual development refers to how children start taking in, interpreting, and understanding sensory input or information. Perception allows children to adapt and interact with their environment using their senses. Children are born with the ability to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. All these senses come into play when children are learning and experiencing new things.

Why is visual perception so important?

Good visual perceptual skills are important for many everyday skills such as reading, writing, completing puzzles, cutting, drawing, completing math problems, dressing, finding your socks on the bedroom floor to mention just a few. Without the ability to complete these everyday tasks, a child’s self-confidence and independence can deteriorate, having a negative impact on their ability to play and learn.
Apart from Visual perception (what you see), there are many different areas of Perception that children need to develop

  • Auditory perception (sound)
  • Olfactory perception (smell)
  • Gustatory perception (taste)
  • Tactile perception (touch)
  • Motor skills such as body awareness, spatial awareness,

fine motor and gross motor skills, eye movements, eye-hand-foot coordination, midline crossing, direction awareness and dominance (left or right-handed)

What activities can help improve children’s perceptual skills?

There are lots of fun and interactive games or activities you can do at home with your child, all of which help to foster and consolidate their perceptual development.

  • Hidden pictures games in books such as “Where’s Wally?”.
  • Drawing – big boxes are the most fun! Allow your child to create a drawing box, where they can lie in it and doodle all over the sides and top. Alternatively, you can tape big sheets of paper under your dining room table and get them to lie on their backs and draw.
  • Dot-to-dot worksheets or fun mazes.
  • Memory games – play “There is an animal in my head” Allow your child to ask questions to help them discover what it could be. Does it have horns? Four legs? Eats grass? Etc. or “I went to the shops and I bought…” keep adding items to the list which they repeat back to you each time.
  • Sensory activities: explore different textures, temperatures, and smells – scented playdough, slime, beans and coloured rice, sand, icy water etc. Add different household items, creatures, garden materials or food colouring to play and create a world of discovery!
  • Construction-type activities such as Duplo, Lego or any other building blocks. They can copy designs you make like a simple bridge or tower structure.
  • Tongs and pegs – using kitchen tongs to pick up corks, toys, blocks, pom poms, lids, bottle top. The list is endless! You can put them in water or just in a big container. They can move them from one bowl to another. Pegs are great fun too! You can practice pinching them and peg them around buckets or bowls. Make a small washing line in your lounge or garden and allow your child to hang up their dolly or baby clothes.
  • Scrunching and Tearing – give your child some old newspaper to scrunch up into big balls. You can toss them round outside or try throwing them into a box or laundry basket. Allow your child to tear up old newspapers, magazine pages or old wrapping paper you have at home. You can use all the torn-up paper to make dinosaur/bird nests, or just have fun playing with it!

There are so many everyday opportunities for children to develop and strengthen their perceptual skills, in a fun and incidental way. If you are looking for inspiration there is a wealth of ideas available online. I have added some of my favourite links to get you started!

Happy playing and discovering with your children!