The Power of Play: Visual Tracking & Visual Scanning

In Anna Claire Pritchard, Kiddos by Lola Magazine

Visual tracking is a skill that we often don’t think of until our children begin to engage in sports or learn how to read. However, visual tracking is a skill that is established early on in a child’s life. Babies first begin by establishing visual attention. They are able to fixate on an object or a face for short bouts of time. Once a foundation of visual attention is established a child begins to integrate the oculomotor system – utilizing both the visual processing and motor components of the eyes to track an object in a variety of planes (vertical, horizontal, diagonal, and circular).

Everyday skills that require visual tracking include:

  • filling up a glass of water
  • watching a caregiver pull up in car line
  • anticipating the first pitch of a baseball game

Visual scanning also combines the use of both visual processing and ocular movements in order for the eyes to work together to scan a given visual field. It also brings in higher-level skills – it requires the eyes to scan for a desired target and relay to the brain when that target is found and then cease scanning.

Everyday skills that require visual scanning:

  • locating a matching pair of socks in a drawer
  • finding a spelling list in a take-home folder
  • completing a puzzle

When a child has difficulties with daily activities such as writing, counting items, and sequencing one of my first steps is to go back to the basics and assess visual-motor skills. A great starting point to begin improving outcomes with tasks like these is at the eyes – specifically visual scanning and visual tracking skills. Below are toys that will help to lay crucial foundational skills for visual scanning and visual tracking in order to better aid in learning and play as your child grows.

Written By Anna Claire Pritchard MOT, LOTR

Anna Claire is a pediatric occupational therapist at Building Futures Pediatric Therapy Center. Her love of occupational therapy began at a young age. She incorporates fun, creative facets as well as holistic approaches to better assist her clients in reaching their goals. She has experience in a variety of settings from a multidisciplinary center for children with Autism and communication disorders to home health and an outpatient clinic for children and adults with a wide variety of diagnoses such as traumatic brain injury, CVA, cerebral palsy, Sensory Processing Disorder and dysgraphia. Her diverse population of patients is one of her favorite aspects of occupational therapy. Due to her innate love for children, she chose Pediatric occupational therapy as her focus. Anna Claire cares for all of her patients on a personal and professional level.