by:  Dr. Karen Chao

Author Karen ChaoWhile toys keep children amused and hopefully, out of trouble, it is important to understand that toys also play a vital role in overall development, andGame Curriculum Logo especially visual development and vision.  If children play too many computer games and watch too much TV or movies, they don’t get the necessary opportunities to develop the visual skills that are critical to academic success.  We have seen a lot of children throughout the year, who were struggling in school because of poorly developed visual skills.  Fortunately we were able to help them, but we know there are millions of children out there who are still struggling.

Keep in mind that seeing 20/20, or passing a vision screening, only means that your child can see the letters on the eye chart she is supposed to see from 20 feet away.  Vision screenings do not test all the visual skills vital for learning.  Having said that, it’s time to talk more about toys.  Most toys are designed for play within a distance of 18 to 24 inches.  Visual developmental also requires outdoor activities, such as playing catch, T-ball, badminton, tennis, etc.

This holiday season, you can help your child by looking for toys to help with:

  • building eye-hand coordination
  • shape and size discrimination (important for reading)
  • general movement skills (for everything from writing to sports)
  • space and distance judgments (crucial for driving and sports)
  • left/right awareness (vital in avoiding reversals)
  • visual thinking
  • visualization
  • visual memory skills (enable us to develop concepts)

Have a fun, safe, and healthy holiday season by encouraging your children to round out their activities with some of these tried and true games.  If you find your child doesn’t like these games, or struggles with reading and learning, it could be a sign of a vision problem in which case you should schedule a vision evaluation with an optometrist who provides in-office vision therapy programs that are designed to help children develop the visual skills necessary for learning.

For more information on the 17 visual skills required for academic success and vision therapy, you can visit: