Visual-motor skills: How to foster in children

PDF download is not available for Arabic and Urdu languages at this time. Please use the browser print function instead

Read about ways to help a child improve their visual-motor skills.

Key points

  • Visual-motor skills require coordination of body parts.
  • There are many different activities you can do with your child to help them develop and strengthen visual-motor skills.
  • Visual-motor skills can be supported through game-like activities.

Visual-motor skills require coordination of body parts

Supporting arm and shoulder strength

  • Play “Tug of War” using a towel
  • Encourage your child to climb at the playground, or play catch outside

Supporting forearm, wrist and hand strength, and dexterity

  • Have your child play with modelling clay or dough, rolling it into snakes and pinching it
  • Have your child play with stacking and interconnecting blocks
  • Play thumb wars, rock/paper/scissors, and spray bottle games
  • Create opportunities that involve hammering and cutting
  • Ask for your child’s help when opening and closing various containers, doors, gates, etc.

Supporting development of finger and thumb strength, and dexterity

  • Find opportunities to have your child sort small objects into jars or containers
  • Consider having your child thread beads or buttons, starting with large ones and moving to smaller ones
  • Let your child sort and slide coins through a slit in a piggy bank
  • Encourage your child to colour using a variety of instruments (chalk, crayon, coloured pencil), and have them practice colouring in progressively smaller areas
  • Offer your child stickers or sticker books (these can be the re-stickable ones that create scenes)
  • For younger children, consider puzzles that can be lifted and placed using a peg

Engaging bilateral hand movements

  • Teach your child hand string games (e.g., cat’s cradle)
  • Instruct your child on how to make dream catchers, paper fortune tellers, paper airplanes, etc.
  • Encourage independent buttoning, lacing, and zippering
  • Consider having your child dress dolls or stuffed animals

Visual-motor skills can be supported through game-like activities

Playing with blocks

  • Create towers and have your child copy them
  • Make simple designs with three or four blocks. Talk about how you are making the design. For example, “I am placing the blue block on top of the red block. Now I am putting the green block next to the red block.”
  • Have your child build a design; copy it, and let your child decide if it is the same

Encouraging colouring, painting and drawing

  • Draw together. Start with simple line drawings and progress to people or houses, etc. Encourage your child to copy what you draw, or have them draw something and copy it.
  • Inspire your child to paint on construction paper or use a paint brush and water outside.
  • Have your child trace over pictures several times before trying to draw the picture independently.
  • Use language to guide drawing; describe each step out loud as you do it.

Engage in printing activities

  • Begin by having your child copy or create simple line drawings using circles and horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines. As they progress, have your child integrate the lines into simple shapes (e.g., a square, X, triangle, diamond, etc).
  • When having your child practice letter formation, consider using a chalkboard, whiteboard or easel to engage large arm movements.
  • When having your child practice letter formation, have them trace the letters before trying to write the letters independently.
  • Capital letters are easier to learn as they are all the same size. Teach these letters before lowercase letters.
  • If your child is having trouble creating letters on a page, offer visual cues.
    • Draw a blue line across the top of the page, a green line across the middle, and a brown line across the bottom. Tell your child, “the blue line is the sky, the green line is the grass, and the brown line is the dirt under the ground. The letter ‘l’ begins in the sky and moves straight down through the grass to the dirt.” Specialized printing paper with larger solid and dotted lines can also be purchased.
  • Ensure that your child is seated appropriately (e.g., has a table and chair at an appropriate height, feet are flat on the floor) when working on pencil and paper activities. This will increase your child’s opportunity for success.

General Tips

  • Praise your child for engaging in writing activities.
  • Encourage your child to ask for help when they need it.
  • Include writing activities in daily life.

What if I have questions about my child’s writing development?

Difficulties with writing may occur due to writing mechanics and written expression. Any challenges with these skills can hinder your child’s writing skills overall:

  • Your child may be able to make letter shapes, but is unable to clearly express their ideas in writing.
  • Your child may have good ideas, but difficulties with the mechanics of writing prevents them from communicating ideas on paper.

If your child is having trouble mastering either or both of the fundamental writing skills, talk to their teacher to discuss a plan of action. Your child’s teacher can provide support, such as providing a better understanding of what the difficulty may be and activities you can do with your child at home.

Last updated: July 20th 2020