Visual perceptual and fine motor skills are essential to early child development. Visual perception is a child’s ability to obtain, organize and interpret information from the environment and integrate it with her other senses, while motor skills enable a child to use her muscles to crawl, walk, climb and manipulate crayons, forks and other tools. These fundamental skills are related, which means you can engage infants, toddlers and preschoolers in activities that will promote and foster both at the same time.
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Activities for Infants
Among the first developmental tasks a newborn baby is faced with is being able to see, recognize and identify familiar faces -- all of which are perceptual abilities. Promote recognition with mirror play, which will encourage baby to recognize her own face and other reflections. Place a baby-safe toy mirror in your infant’s hands to promote grasping -- a basic fine motor skill -- at the same time. Read picture books with older infants, which will encourage sight-word recognition and picture identification. Use cardboard or fabric books so that your child can practice fine motor skills by grasping, pulling and pushing the pages without tearing them.
Activities for Toddlers
As babies develop and grow, so do their sense of visual perception and motor abilities. Developmental objectives for toddlers include being able to recognize and identify shapes and colors and manipulate objects of different shapes and sizes. Give your child opportunities to practice both skills with shape-sorting toys, which require toddlers to push colored shape blocks through matching holes. Simple jigsaw puzzles also promote perception and motor skills by challenging toddlers to arrange pieces to form a picture and then fit the pieces together correctly.
Activities for Preschoolers
A preschooler’s task is to fine-tune the basic perception and motor skills he’s mastered over the first few years of life and build upon them. Activities should grow increasingly complex to promote and foster higher-order skills such as recognizing patterns, categorizing like items and writing the letters of the alphabet. Promote perceptual and motor skills at the preschool level with matching games that require your child to place like items together. Challenge him, for example, to go around the room collecting toys and grouping them by genre or category, such as tools, farm animals or wooden toys. Give your child a set of crayons and encourage him to write his name with the different colors. Or, play a game of picture dominos, which requires children to identify pictures and place them strategically among the other dominos.
Other Ways to Reinforce Skills
Simple, daily tasks and activities reinforce perceptual and motor skills in young children while also encouraging autonomy. Brushing teeth or getting dressed in front of the mirror, helping to set the table, and putting toys where they belong all reinforce perceptual and motor skills. Physical activities such as hopscotch, hide-and-go-seek and jump rope reinforce these skills while also promoting fitness.