Visual perceptual skills are so important for kids to work on and, luckily, there are a lot of great online games that can help kids practice these skills while also having fun. Nothing better than improving visual skills without realizing it, right?! Here are some of my favorite online visual perceptual games:
2. An action-based game
3. Pirates and Treasures iSpy Game
4. Memory Games
5. Jigsaw Puzzles
There are so many great ways to work on visual perceptual skills and, yes, they’re actually fun! Here are some of my favorite online visual perceptual games.
1. Tetris: Best Online Visual Perceptual Games
Anyone who is nostalgic for the 80’s will be thrilled with this old school suggestion. Tetris is a game that has not only stood the test of time, but is also a great resource for kids that need to work on their visual perceptual skills.
Research shows that Tetris works on visual attention, visual scanning, and visuospatial working memory (source, source). As pieces fall, kids need to figure out where they will go and how the placement of those pieces fits into the larger landscape of the blocks.
What really fascinates me about Tetris is how it’s been shown to impact visuospatial working memory. Your working memory can only hold so much information at a time. This is the theory behind why phone numbers are 7 digits. It’s believed that we can only hold these 7 pieces of info in our brains at once.
Tetris works in the same way. When we start playing, we don’t have room for a lot of other things. Interestingly, Tetris has been used with people with trauma and been found to disrupt their maladaptive mental imagery (source).
Basically, the brain is focused on Tetris and becomes distracted from the trauma.
Whether you’re using Tetris as a fun way to dive back into the 80’s, or you want to help your student improve their visual perceptual skills, it’s definitely a game worth checking out.
2. An Action-Based Video Game: Best Online Visual Perceptual Games
If your child is a gamer, it’s likely they’re already working on their visual perceptual skills every day. Now, as with all of these games, limits are necessary. Anything that becomes obsessive or excessive is not healthy.
That said, we can’t leave video games out of this list of online visual perceptual practice. Research on this topic says that video games can help people learn how to take in visual information and then translate it into motor abilities (source). This has to happen quickly, which can help the brain increase its efficiency with visual processing.
Now, one scientist has pointed out that video games may help with more advanced visual perceptual skills, but they may not be as helpful with the core, basic visual perceptual skills (source). So, it’s important to keep your child’s skills in mind and also provide variety in their visual perceptual practice.
If your child is working on more advanced visual perceptual skills, an action-based video game has benefits over something like Tetris, for example. When you play Tetris, things become predictable.
Yes, the pieces start falling faster and you need to think quickly about where to maneuver them, but you never have a dragon pop out of the corner and burn all of your blocks to smithereens.
An action-based video game offers the added benefit of forcing players to deal with the unknown and learn how to shift their attention at a moment’s notice. How do you respond if a dragon pops out of nowhere? Where do you steer the car if a roadblock pops up?
Action-based video games have been shown to improve visual attention more than Tetris. Yet, Tetris has been shown to improve visual attention more than slower and static games (source). Again, evaluate your child’s current skills and mix things up to get the advantages of many different types of visual practice.
3. Pirates and Treasures iSpy Game: Best Online Visual Perceptual Games
iSpy games, Where’s Waldo books, and any other hidden object search activities are great ways to work on visual perceptual skills. Games like these work on visual scanning, attention, object differentiation, and figure ground recognition skills.
Let’s walk through these individually.
Visual scanning is when you use your vision to search for something. In order to actually find what you’re looking for, your brain can’t do this casually; it has to do it in a systematic way. Searching top to bottom, left to right, one section at a time, etc. This is where attention comes in.
Visual scanning doesn’t work well without attention. It’s important to pay enough attention to your search so that you know when you’ve found what you’re looking for. This is where object differentiation comes in.
Even if you’re scanning properly and paying attention, it’s hard to find something if you don’t know what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a tree, you can’t stop when you’ve found the dog. These hidden object games require students to know what they’re looking for and to understand when they’ve found it.
Lastly, in order to found objects within a scene, it’s important to differentiate the figure-ground from the objects you’re searching for. If the tree simply fades into the background, you’re going to have a hard time finding it. Hidden object games help students understand busy environments and how to find specific objects within them.
As I mentioned, hidden object games come in many forms from books to outdoor play. There are even a lot of online options as well. The reason I picked this particular game is because it’s really well done.
This Pirates and Treasures iSpy Game has beautiful illustrations, fun music, and an engaging scenario. I mean, who doesn’t love pirates and treasure?! That said, if your kid isn’t thrilled by this topic, they have hidden object games about a number of different subjects.
4. Memory Games: Best Online Visual Perceptual Games
Memory games work on the visual working memory that we talked about with Tetris. They also have an added benefit of object differentiation and object matching.
From a working memory perspective, we’ve all felt the pressure of playing a memory game and trying to wrack our brains for where we last say the card that matches the one we just turned over. Depending on how many cards we have, this can be a really tough task.
Of course, adjust the difficulty of the activity to match your child’s skill level. This online memory game by Learning Games for Kids lets you choose how many cards you want to work with, which makes it really easy to make the game more simple or challenging depending on your student’s needs.
Memory games also help students practice their object differentiation and matching skills. You’ll notice that this online game comes with a number of topics. If your child is learning certain words or working on a certain area, use objects from that topic so that they can get extra practice with those objects and words.
5. Jigsaw Puzzles: Best Online Visual Perceptual Games
Jigsaw puzzles are great for visual perceptual skills because they require matching, object differentiation, visual scanning, and an understanding of the bigger picture. And, as anyone who has stared at a huge box of pieces knows, puzzles can be a practice in patience.
I’m a big fan of jigsaw puzzles in all forms, physical and digital.
Physical puzzles are beneficial because they give kids some fine motor practice. Turning the pieces over, snapping the pieces together, carefully moving pieces around. Working with puzzle pieces can be a great workout for the fingers.
Digital puzzles are great because they offer variation. Instead of needing to run to the store and shell out more money for a physical puzzle that your child will lose interest in someday, the online world offers SO many puzzle options with just a few clicks.
Again, I’m a huge fan of physical puzzles given the extra fine motor work, but if you need something in a pinch, digital puzzles will do the trick.
Check out this collection of digital jigsaw puzzles from Room Recess. They have puzzles covering a lot of different topics and with a variety of different numbers of pieces. This makes it easy to choose puzzles based on the interests and skill level of your child.
There are so many great ways to work on visual perceptual skills, including with online games. “Visual perceptual” sounds like a big and boring word, but there are super fun ways to build skills in this area! Give a few games a try and see what resonates with your child.
Diana is a registered occupational therapist who specializes in sensory processing disorders and autism.