Activities like puzzle building can help enrich your child's visual perception skills.

Perceptual Activities for Toddlers

by Jennifer Brozak

You’re in the car with your 3-year-old son when you pass an industrial park’s smoke stacks. “Look mom,” he yells. “A VOLCANO!” Your 2-year-old daughter draws a circle with a line running through it. You ask her, “What did you draw, honey?” She tells you, “It’s an octopus, silly!” Come on, Mom–couldn’t you tell?

Anyone who spends time around toddlers knows that they have a different way of seeing the world. This, of course, is because their imaginations can rival those of even the most creative adults. It’s also because their sense of visual perception has not quite matured and will continue to develop throughout grade school. Visual perception is an essential cornerstone when it comes to learning. It helps children learn to read, follow directions, visualize objects, play sports and even ride a bike. Exposing your kiddo to different perceptual activities can help him to develop and understand visual stimuli, which, in turn, can promote academic and athletic success.

Hidden Picture Puzzles

Ever hear of “Where’s Waldo"? Who hasn’t, right? Did you know, however, that searching for Waldo’s fashionably forward red-and-white sweater and hat amid dozens of other objects can also improve your child’s visual perception skills? Seek-and-find activities, like those popular in “Highlights” magazine, are simple, fun and effective because they require children to separate irrelevant information while searching for specific items.

Memory Games

Memory games are excellent tools for helping your child’s perception abilities. Why? Because they require your child to not only remember specific images, but also the location of those specific images. You don’t even need to buy a fancy toy or game to practice this activity; you can make your own pairs of cards out of construction paper (using stickers for the images). Print them from a website like or even use basic playing cards.


In each episode of “Dora the Explorer,” Dora and Boots must find their way to a specific destination, but not until they battle a series of obstacles. They travel through path after path, asking their young viewers for help to guide them in the right direction. Yes, your toddler is fascinated by the talking monkey and the fact that a Spanish-speaking squirrel is driving a car. However, she’s also developing her visual perception skills (see, Mom, you can feel a little less guilty about your kid’s TV time–she’s actually learning!) Mazes are solid tools for enriching your tot’s perceptual abilities, because they require the ability to discriminate differences in visual stimuli.

"Finish the Picture" Puzzles

Popular in coloring and activity books, connect-the-dot and “finish this picture” activities are helpful in terms of improving your child’s visual perception. These types of activities, which also include puzzles, are known as “visual closure” activities because they require children to determine what a finished picture will look like before they know all of the details. The ability to “see the big picture” can help your child learn to predict, anticipate and visualize–all important skills when it comes to reading, writing and overall academic success.

About the Author

As a mother, wife and recovering English teacher, Jennifer Brozak is passionate about all things parenting and education. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and St. Vincent College, Jennifer writes features for the IN Community magazine network and shares her daily escapades on her blog, One Committed Mama.

Photo Credits

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