Figure-Ground Perception

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Figure-Ground Perception: Find what you need in a busy background!

Figure-ground perception is the ability to focus on one specific piece of information in a busy background.

Visual figure-ground is the ability to see an object in a busy background; while auditory figure-ground helps a child pick out a voice or sound from a noisy environment.

This article deals with the visual perceptual skill and offers some activity ideas to inspire parents and teachers!

Figure-Ground Perception Can Help You To:

  • find your favorite socks in a messy drawer
  • find the ketchup bottle in the pantry
  • find a specific toy in the toy-box
  • find a favorite t-shirt in the cupboard
  • find a dropped item if it fell onto a similar colored background (eg a green button on the grass)

A Child With Poor Skills May:

  • struggle to find information on a busy blackboard
  • find it hard to copy work from the board as the child keeps losing his place when copying
  • lose his/her place on the page while reading.
  • have poor dictionary skills
  • struggle with map work
  • struggle to find personal items in a cluttered place

The activities below may help your child to develop this important skill.

These visual perception activities are intended to encourage your child's normal visual perceptual development.
If you suspect your child has visual perceptual delays, please seek a professional opinion.

Toddler Figure-Ground Activities

These are fun for very young children, or for those whose figure-ground perception is really poor.

Laundry Games

Ask your child to find the matching sock, or pick out their own clothes from the pile.

This will help your child to spot something important in a busy background.

Sort Cereal or Pasta

(Please be aware of any choking hazards!)

Give your child a bowl of mixed cereal or pasta to sort out into muffin or egg trays according to shape or color.

To boost the FG requirement, ask your child to pick out only a specific cereal color or a specific pasta shape from the bowl instead of simply sorting them all out.

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"Active Eyes" Activities

Play “I spy” type games!

Outdoors: You and your child can go on nature walks to spot birds, insects, plants etc. Older kids can look for numbers and letters in the neighborhood.

Indoors: Have your child spot items in a book, or look for your groceries on a shopping flyer.

Outdoor Active Eyes!
Indoor Active Eyes!

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Games And Puzzles

“Lotto” type games will encourage your child to pay active attention to spot the small differences between the playing cards.

Instead of playing them as a game, give your child a lotto board, and present a range of cards, asking which one fits.

Increase the figure-ground demand by adding more cards to the “pool” so your child has to find the specific card in a busier background.

When doing a jigsaw puzzle, encourage your child to look for the small details.

For example, pick up a piece, point out a specific color/shape/object on the piece, and ask your child to find a piece that has the same color/the rest of the object on it.

Obviously, start with puzzles with fewer pieces!

If your child struggles with puzzles, read my article on teaching puzzles.

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Puzzle Books

Popular “seek and find” puzzle books like Where's Waldo?, I Spy Books and the Usborne Puzzle World Books are great! Look for them in your local library and second hand bookstores!

Your child will need lots of encouragement if they usually avoid this type of book – encourage your child to pay attention to detail, and show them how to systematically work through the page.

How to help your child use a puzzle book:

Usually, I let the child scan the page first, and if they do not find the object, I will work with them systematically.

You can ask your child to look in specific areas of the picture – "Have you looked in the house?", "How about the tree?" And in this way systematically cover all the main areas of the page.

Or you can show your child how to move a finger across the page and have the eyes follow the finger. Work from left to right, gradually moving down the page.

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Worksheets that present spot-the-difference, mazes, hidden pictures, word-searches and color-by-number activities are all helpful in building skills.

However, kids with poor figure-ground perception often don’t know where to begin to do these activities as the visual information is overwhelming.

Sit with your child and help them to make sense of the worksheet and to develop strategies for completing the worksheets.

Check out these visual perceptual printables for some lovely worksheets.

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Classroom Strategies

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I am going to point you to other helpful resources on the web!

Figure-Ground Perception Resources

If you are looking for some resources to help develop your child's figure ground skills, then check out these ones that I have sourced.

Therapy Products to boost visual perceptual skills.

This downloadable visual perceptual e-book contains good figure-ground and visual discrimination activities. Read my review here.

Figure-Ground Products from Amazon

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I hope you found this information useful! Children with poor figure ground skills may also struggle with visual discrimination, and the activities are often similar. So try some activities on that page as well.

For more information on the different visual perceptual skills and their importance, read my page over here.

Thank you for visiting my site!

› Figure-Ground Perception

Honesty Point!
To help you, I have linked to a few useful products from various suppliers that reflect the activities suggested on this page.
I occasionally receive samples in exchange for an honest review, but the opinions expressed are entirely my own.
You are under no obligation to purchase anything, but if you do purchase something through my links, I will receive a small commission that will help support this website, at no additional cost to you.
Thank you!

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