While researching vision therapy and the visual/learning connection I came across an article entitled, “Toys for Strong Vision.” by Dr. Charles Boulet, a developmental optometrist with a background in education and neuropsychology. His clinic, Diamond Valley Vision Care is located in Alberta, Canada.
As a parent, the concept of developmental toys is not new to me. Although in my opinion once a child passes the age of 6 years we hear less about developmental toys and more about the latest electronic games and gadgets, even though skill development at that age level (and beyond) is still occurring and very important.
Dr. Boulet’s article includes eighty-one toy and activity suggestions for a variety of ages. He has categorized them into the various skill sets that support reading and academic development including building toys, fine motor skill toys, space perception toys, visual thinking toys & games and balance and coordination toys & games.
With the concepts and suggestions Dr. Boulet covers in his article I have made a more conscious effort to choose games and activities for my children that target the development of their visual skills. One of the most popular in our house these days is Perplexus by PlaSmart. The object of Perplexus is to balance a small silver ball on the narrow tracks of a maze within a sphere. Carefully tilting the sphere, while following the little ball with your eyes, you move the ball along the tracks, over and under obstacles all while trying not to let it fall over. At first, my daughter found it a little frustrating because the little ball wouldn’t stay on the track, but she kept at it and quickly figured it out. I can see her concentrating with her eyes focused on the ball as it follows those little tracks; determined not to let that ball fall off. This game has become so popular in our house, that I think I may have to get another one … for my husband! He seems even more determined than our daughter to get that little ball through the maze!
Other games we have tried from Dr. Boulet’s list include Jenga, Kerplunk, Lite-Brite and Operation. (They have a Star Wars version now, for anyone like me, who has fans of Star Wars at home.)
Other popular games with my children (not mentioned in Dr. Boulet’s article) include Shrimp Cocktail by Blue Orange Games. The object of the game is to find as many matching cards as possible, to “squeeze the star fish” (which makes a squeaking sound) before your opponents. Along the same lines, and a little more challenging, is Spot it! also by Blue Orange Games. There are 5 ways to play Spot-it, all with the same objective, to be the first player to spot the matching pictures between two cards.
With the recent snow storm we had, yesterday was a snow day. My children made great use of the best (and most frugal) play space around — outside! Tobogganing, tunnelling through a pile of snow to make a fort, tossing snow balls, all of these activities contributed to the healthy development of several skills and neither of them even realized it. They were too busy having fun!
Regardless of what games you’re playing or where you’re playing them, the objective is to have fun, spend time with your family and enjoy the additional benefits of helping our children develop important skills.