Let’s look more carefully at the importance of visual discrimination

Strong visual discrimination skills are essential for success in school, regardless of how old your child is or what grade he is in.  However, these skills are especially critical for children in preschool and kindergarten who are learning letter formations and numeral formations as well as learning how to navigate in the school classroom and environment. 

Visual discrimination is the ability to differentiate characteristics of visual images.  It is easy to understand why this skill is essential for school success.  For example, a child must be able to identify the characteristics of letters and see differences between letters to be able to read.  For example, to read correctly, a child must be able to identify all letters and differentiate between letters that are similar, such as b, p, g. and q or P, B, R, and F.  Consider the similarity between these pairs or numbers -  3 and 8, 6 and 9, or 1 and 7.  Without visual discrimination skills, it would be extremely difficult to identify the differences and remember those numbers.  Actually, visual discrimination skills are important in all aspects of learning.  In addition, visual discrimination skills help children feel comfortable in social situations which call for identifying a large variety of people and even recognizing other people’s feelings. 

The good news is that visual discrimination skills are easy and fun to practice!  To begin, there are over 100 challenging visual discrimination worksheets that are designed to help your little one practice and hone visual discrimination skills.  Little guys love to do “homework” and these colorful and engaging worksheets fit the bill. 

Challenging visual discrimination worksheets

Missing pieces worksheets

In addition to the worksheets, try some of these visual discrimination games.  Nicely, many of these activities can be initiated anywhere and anytime you have a few spare minutes.

  • Play “I Spy” by asking your child to spot a specific item within his view.  Adding details to your description of the item will force your child to look carefully to spot the exact item you have in mind.
  • Use cereal pieces, beads, or buttons to create a small group of items.  Make sure that all items are identical except for one.  Ask your child to spot the piece that is different from the rest.  At first, the difference can be quite obvious, but as you and your child play this game, create groups in which the difference is more and more subtle.  Perhaps, one button has a small chip in its side or one bead is slightly lighter in color than the others.
  • Write a string of four numbers or letters on a piece of paper.  Have three of the four letters or numbers be identical and the fourth letter be similar, but different.  Place the different letter or number in various positions in the line so that your child will need to review the entire line before choosing the one that is different.
  • Vary the activity above by writing a line of four letters or numbers where only two match and the others are similar, but different.
  • Show your child pictures in a book and ask her to point to specific things.  Again, this activity can begin with obvious choices and progress to smaller or less obvious choices.
  • Introduce “hidden picture” puzzles where a familiar item is camouflaged in a picture.  You can find these puzzles in some children’s magazines or in picture books at your library.
  • Ask your child to help you find specific items on a grocery or drug store shelf.
  • Show your child photos of people at various ages or in different locations and ask him to describe the differences he sees.  Perhaps his father’s hair is longer in one picture or he is wearing shorts in one picture and slacks in the other.

The popular box game, Guess Who?, offers children a fun way to notice specific details in illustrations of people or animals.


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