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These visual motor integration activities will help your child to learn to perceive and copy shapes, numbers and letters correctly to help with handwriting skills. There are some ideas to help older kids as well!
Visual-Motor Integration (also known as VMI) is the effective, efficient communication between the visual systems and the motor systems.
Good VMI skills can help your child correctly copy or draw the shapes, numbers and letters that he/she sees, which is important for handwriting.
Depending on where your child is at, click on the links below to jump down the page to the visual motor integration activities for each level.
The developmental sequence is to first draw "straight" lines (horizontal and vertical) then circles.
Toddlers usually manage to scribble the lines, and then start drawing loops, that eventually develop into circles.
Tracing and then drawing spirals is a good way to practice the circular movement needed for circles!
SEN Teacher provides a free spiral download here (opens in new window). It's not the same as the one shown in my photo, but is still helpful if you need spirals!
But first draw lots of bigger spirals on non-paper mediums and have your child trace them before doing a worksheet.
Squares and rectangles are harder because they require that your child STOP at corners and turn the corners.
Your child also needs to perceive how many sides there are and give their drawing the same number of sides.
However, the lines needed for squares and rectangles are horizontal and vertical, so they are still easier than triangles, which have diagonal lines.
Triangles are tricky because they are made up of at least one or two diagonal lines.
If your child struggles to draw triangles, then start by practicing lots of diagonal lines, before connecting them to make a triangle.
I always find it immensely helpful to stand behind the child and guide their hands through the tracing.
I talk them through it, emphasizing stopping at the corners and turning the corners.
Try some visual motor integration activities with stars drawn with + and x .
Here, the child is tracing over the simple printed stars I made. She is working on a vertical surface.
Or draw lots of slants ////\\\\ to make a fir tree and have your child go over and over the diagonal lines.
Once your child has practiced tracing over your diagonal lines, draw a fir tree like the one alongside and have your child try and copy it.
You will soon see whether the diagonals are weak or not.
If your child has been practicing scissor cutting, a nice idea is to cut out triangles, paste them to make a picture (eg a house or a rocket) and then trace around them as shown.
You will need to cue the child to stop at each corner and make nice sharp turns.
Tracing around a 5 point star can also help your child draw diagonals.
I drew a star on this Magnadoodle, and the child is tracing over it with a thicker magnet pencil.
"Lazy 8's" make great visual motor integration activities to work on diagonals!
Work on a large vertical surface and turn your lazy 8 into a butterfly or a racing track to capture your child’s interest.
Your child should start at the top of the right hand loop (for a right handed child; see the car on the top of the racing track pic) and draw down the diagonal to the bottom of the left loop, up the left loop and down the diagonal to bottom of the right loop and back up again.
A left handed child should start at the top of the left loop and start down the diagonal from there.
If you look carefully, the tracing in the butterfly is not that great, as the child struggled to stay on the path, and the down strokes from left to right are more vertical than diagonal.
If you notice your child doing this, keep practicing this activity a few more times, encouraging the diagonal slant.
You can also draw a racing track, and have the child steer a Modarri car around the track - these cars steer beautifully and can be used for to improve visual-motor skills. Read more about how I use Modarri cars in this way.
Practicing handwriting patterns is a good way to develop the flow and ease needed for handwriting.
The patterns shown alongside were done by a child who had poor VMI skills. If you look closely, they are jerky, with lots of stopping and starting, and they lack flow.
If you notice that your child struggles to make good, flowing patterns, then spend some time doing lots of patterns and looping paths on a large upright surface (white board, blackboard, outside wall, mirror).
Once your child has had lots of practice with patterns on a big surface, you could print pattern downloads and have your child trace them a few times with a finger before trying them with a crayon. I use this printable visual motor workbook a LOT to help develop these skills.
Your child may also benefit from doing some eye-hand coordination activities to strengthen eye-hand coordination skills.
If your child struggles to write numbers and letters, first go back and check that they can draw shapes, diagonal lines and intersecting lines (+ and x) properly.
Numbers and letters all have specific starting points. Use a visual clue, like a dot or a small star to remind kids where to start.
Numbers 1-7 all start in the top left corner, so you can call that the starting corner and then work on 2 or 3 numbers at a time with little rhymes or stories until your child has learned to write them.
It is best to work on large surfaces before moving onto books and worksheets. Another tip is to have your child draw the letter in the air with closed eyes!
For more letter formation tips and strategies, visit these pages of my site:
Dot pictures and grid pictures are helpful visual motor integration activities. They require the child to look carefully at the picture and replicate it, which is the same skill needed in handwriting!
Start with the really simple ones for young kids and progress to the harder ones as their skills develop.
At first, you will need to help your child by pointing out where the line starts and then going dot by dot or grid by grid.
Your child will need to have a good grasp of directionality in order to understand the concept of drawing "up one grid", "3 dots to the left" and so on.
Your Therapy Source has developed 2 lovely, reproducible, downloadable e-books with dot pictures and grid pictures.
They contain a whole range
of worksheets that are graded from very easy to very difficult, so children
of different ages and skills can benefit from the same e-book!
Just click on the images alongside to see the details of each e-book .
Visual motor integration activities for older children invariably use pencil and paper. However, you can still manage to make it interesting for them!
Older kids can still benefit from some "large surface work" as shown by this boy tracing a whale outline on a blackboard.
Older children are usually better at understanding the instruction to "look carefully and to draw what you see", but it does take a lot of practice to help them refine that skill.
They often need reminders to "slow down" and "draw it in exactly the same way", and cues to stop at the dot or line, and to angle their lines in exactly the same way.
Worksheets that teach kids to draw step-by-step, like the one alongside, are also good visual motor integration activities.
I have made extensive use of these lovely printables to create visual motor integration activities for my own kids and for the kids I work with in local schools.
Just click on the images below to see the various e-books in more detail.
Pocket Full of Therapy stock a range of therapy products - I have picked out a few that are helpful for developing visual-motor integration skills.
Exclusive Offer to OT Mom Readers
Use the coupon code OTmom
and get 15% off your order of $35 or more at PFOT
For your convenience, I have linked to similar products on PFOT (above) and Amazon (below) - I may receive a small commission if you purchase something through these links, which helps support this site. However, you are under no obligation to purchase anything!
If the images are not showing, your browser may be blocking the image ads, but the links should still work.
These visual motor integration activities are useful for developing the foundation skills for handwriting. But working on motor skills and other visual perceptual skills is also important.
Check out these other pages on my site to help support your child in these areas.
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