Here are some simple exercises and activities you can try at home to assist with eye skill development. With thanks to ACBO member practice Pezzimenti Optometrists.
For Better eye tracking and eye alignment skills
- Looking up, down, left and right with the eyes only, and no head movement - possibly to the four corners of a room, and in time to a beat, may help stimulate simple tracking skills. Repeat this ten times at the start of a lesson.
- Drawing numbers at random over a blackboard and having a child draw a continuous line to connect them, again trying to avoid head movements. This can also be used to help develop sequencing skills.
- Reading the first and last letters on every line down a page of text, without using fingers to keep place or reading the first letter of every word, can help develop better saccadic eye movements.
- Having two people throwing partially inflated balloons across the line of sight of a third, who has to track the balloon, possibly shining a torch on to it as it arcs through the air.
- Drawing a maze on to thin card, placing a small metal object at the start, and trying to pull along the course from underneath with a magnet may assist in the development of hand/eye skills.
For better focussing skills
- Having a child read (if not a fluent reader, reading single letters) whilst moving the material in and out, and in circles, can help develop stable focus skills. It also encourages near/far refocussing between targets placed three inches away and targets at a distance. This should only be performed fro short periods as fatigue can result.
For better copying skills
- Encourage pattern-copying, using increasingly complex shapes as an aid to develop basic visual judgement , copying and visual memory skills. Word searches are useful ways of helping children learn to spot embedded detail (commercial computer software is available to allow rapid generation of ‘tailor-made’ word searches directly applicable to current topic word).
For better visualisation skills
- Pattern games such as ‘Battleships’ are excellent ways of encouraging visual analysis - and they may help with National Curriculum mapwork as well!
- When teaching spelling, do not rely on simple look-and-say approaches. Try to encourage visualization by looking, covering, closed-eyed picturing, saying or writing down, re-covering, re-drawing and looking again. It sounds a mouthful, but works!
- Encourage day-dreaming! But only if followed by exercises in describing the dreams with as much sensory detail as possible.
- Listening to music with eyes closed, trying to picture the scenes the composer is trying to portray. Good pieces for this include: Carnival of the Animals, Peter and the Wolf, Pictures at an Exhibition, Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, etc.