How to Strengthen Preschool Eye Movements

Cheri Moore

Written by Cheri Moore

February 12, 2024

How to strengthen preschool eye movements provides opportunities to observe, strengthen relationships, and have fun. Action-packed activities encourage the development of eye movement skills in preschoolers, children, and teens. Equally important, observation tips help you learn what to observe. Once done observing, have fun! Parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, I encourage you to play alongside your preschooler. Regardless of your age, the muscles in your eyes benefit from exercise.

Did you know that eye movement skills develop one year at a time?

These activities use everyday objects found around your home. When needed, tweak what you need to enjoy these visual-motor activities. Remember, preschoolers learn best through exploration and observation. Thus, I encourage you to show them your eye movement skills, laugh, and play alongside your preschooler and loved ones.

Observe Your Preschooler’s Eye Movements

During these action-packed activities, watch your preschooler’s eyes and posture. These activities provide opportunities for you to watch your preschooler’s eye movements. Are there concerns? Does your preschooler move their eyes right to left and left to right? Also, do they choose to move objects from one side of their body to the other side using the same hand? For observation tips, please read my How to Observe Visual Development in All Ages post. When you watch your child’s posture and eyes, you learn how to play in ways that meet their visual and emotional needs.

Meet Your Preschooler’s Eye Movement Needs

Once an activity is set up, watch how your preschooler moves everything around to their liking. Remember, you are observing eye movements through these eye movement activities. Observation means no verbal or physical corrections.

Interesting Fact:
We live in a 3D world where your brain learns how to move your eyes together to keep vision single and clear.
The television is a 2D world.
Researchers found that preschoolers learn emotional expression and vocabulary best by interacting with others.

PEDIATRIC CHILD HEALTH, NOV 2017

If these eye-movement activities result in a mess, that is part of learning. Thus, I encourage you to reassure your child with a hug or by saying something silly like “That food just jumped off your plate. I guess it wanted to see the floor.” Then, give them the tools to help clean up. My children often heard me say: “I am so thankful God gave us two hands. No problem, washcloths are for cleaning up messes” (dustpans, brooms, more clothes). Then, hand them a washcloth and work together.

Visual Eye Movement Development For Preschoolers, 4 and 5 Year Olds

Typical Development

  1. Uses eyes and hands together well.
  2. Expresses self, looks at you, rolls eyes.
  3. Draws and names pictures.
  4. Colors within the lines.
  5. Cuts well on the lines.
  6. Uses the whole piece of paper.
  7. Places small objects in small openings.
  8. Visually alert, looks around, watches.
  9. Talks about what they saw: person, place, or thing.

Visual Processing Concerns

  1. Struggles with motor coordination.
  2. Avoids eye-contact.
  3. Drawings are lopsided, lacks details.
  4. Colors outside of the lines, scribbles.
  5. Cuts off parts of the picture.
  6. Uses only part of the paper.
  7. Forces objects through an opening.
  8. Avoids lights, prefers dimly lit rooms.
  9. Rarely shares what they saw.
  10. Avoids certain activities

Are you ready to learn how hard a child works to develop their eye movements, visual processing?

two preschool aged kids sitting on the floor coloring with crayons on a large brown piece of paper. A boy wearing a hat is on the left and he is leaning forward on his forearms. A girl is on the left and she is reaching down with her right hand to color. Multiple crayons are on the paper and in a tin cup in front of them.

Eye Movement Activity: Homemade Open Marble Run

Encourage Eye Tracking and Visualization

Watching a moving object encourages eye tracking, eye movements. When you read a book or write, your eyes move from left to right and from right to left. Visualization occurs as they decorate the tubes and design the marble run.

Supplies:

  • Cardboard tubes, empty spaghetti boxes, or plastic pipes cut horizontally
  • Decorating supplies: colored pencils or markers, stickers, colored tape, wrapping/colored paper, glue (use a small container and a q-tip for liquid glue)
  • Scissors
  • Painter’s tape
  • Marble, ping pong ball, toy car, or other small rolling object
  • Bowl or basket

Directions

Choose Materials and Decorate

If your preschooler likes art, give them cardboard tubes and art supplies like stickers, colored tape, and markers. When there are older siblings, encourage them to draw, color, cut, and glue paper on the outside of the cardboard tubes. The child needs to watch the object like a marble move. So whatever you use, you will need to cut or saw them in half. Then use duct tape to cover sharp edges.

Let them experiment! For example, if something gets stuck inside of the tubes let it stay there. Wait, watch, and listen. Does your little one figure out that a bump causes balls to slow down or jump out of the tube? While it is completely optional, decorating whatever you use is a fun way to get your little one excited about designing a marble run. 

Build Your Marble Run

Remember how much fun it is to figure things out? Let them spend days or even weeks creating and improving their design. If there are older siblings, everyone will learn to respect each other’s ideas. Each person can create a section of the marble run. Then, encourage everyone to work together to put the sections together. If your child wants to first draw out a plan, then let them.

When you are ready to tape the first tube up on the wall, make sure your preschooler can reach the starting spot. Equally important, make sure your preschooler can see, watch, the rolling object. A wall accessible from a staircase allows all ages to drop in an object from up high. If you have a safe step stool, you can start the marble run a bit higher up.

Test the Marble Run

Parental help is now needed to attach the marble run to a board, wall, or stairs. Encourage testing of each section. If you see a tube taped going the wrong way against gravity, let them test it out before adding the next section. This is going to build character. For example, the child learns analytical thinking and perseverance. They learn to think, I can fix this!  

Depending on your design and object, the “marble” or object may fly right out of the tube. Hint: the faster the speed the more likely the object will jump out of the tube.

Lastly, place a bowl or basket at the end of the marble run to catch your object. Enjoy watching their expressions as they learn what happens when the ball hits the container! Can they change what happens?

Check out the Tinkerlab’s post for some inspiration and additional directions.

An Open Marble Run Develops Visual Processing Skills

An open marble run allows all ages to visually track, watch the moving object.

I like to start by cutting tubes into different lengths. If you are going to design your marble run where the object drops into the next tube, cut the tube in half right up the middle to make an opening. Then, cut off about a fourth or less of the top. Now, your little one can watch the moving object pass from one tube to the other tube.

Encourage your preschooler to watch the ball roll down and into the basket at the end of the marble run.

What to Observe in Your Preschooler

Moms and Dads, watch your preschooler’s eyes while they watch the rolling object.

  • Do their eyes move smoothly left to right and right to left?
  • Is your preschooler watching the marble?
  • Are they looking at the basket waiting for the marble?

How Long Should a Preschooler Focus on an Eye Movement Activity?

The next few action-packed activities encourage your preschooler to focus on a target for longer periods of time.

Developmentally, one minute of focus should occur for each year of your preschooler’s life; your child’s life; and your teenager’s life.

Stanford Medicines

For example, a three-year-old should stay visually focused on a task for three minutes. That means no falling out of their seat, changing activities, or looking away and talking. Did you observe avoidance behaviors, looking away?

Behaviors are clues indicating your child may have visual processing difficulties. It is a puzzle. Our visual system is complex. Thus, you can only observe some types of visual processing difficulties. A developmental vision exam is recommended before your preschooler starts school to evaluate all visual processing skills, eye health, and visual acuity.

Eye Movement Activity: Hit a Target with Snowballs or a Water Gun

Encourage Visual Focus

Does your child look at the target with both eyes? If so, how are they facing the target? As they play, observe to learn if they close one eye, squint, rub their eyes, or move closer and closer towards the target.

When throwing, all ages who are right-handed should place their left foot forward for balance. People who are left-handed should place their right foot forward for balance. If your preschooler stands incorrectly, teach them how to stand.

In warm climates, a water gun target race is enjoyed throughout the year. In colder climates around the holidays, snowballs are great fun. The goal is to wash off or cover up the X drawn with chalk on a tree or surface of your choosing. I provide a hint in the directions to make the snow stick to the X target.

Supplies:

  • Water guns or a pile of snowballs
  • Chalk or duct tape
  • Timer (optional)
Nerf super soaker water gun.

Directions:

Use chalk to make two X’s on an object like two trees, each side of a garage door, two different planks on a wooden fence, or two posts on a porch. Make sure the X is a little bit below your preschooler’s eye level. Then, challenge your preschooler to use their water guns to wash off the target, the X.

If you use snowballs, have everyone start by making a pile of snowballs. Next, draw the X with sidewalk chalk or use duct tape. Then, mist the target area with water to help the snowballs stick to the target covering it up.

If your older children and adults enjoy competitions, set a timer for 4 minutes. Whoever washes off or covers up more of their X wins the race. Get ready, set, go!

What to Observe in Your Preschooler

  • Are they looking at the target, the X, with both eyes?
  • Are they squinting?
  • Is one eye closed or covered up with a hand?
  • Do they start rubbing their eyes?
  • Do their eyes start to water or look tired?
  • Is their head held up straight? Or do you see a tilted head where one ear is closer to their shoulder than the other ear.
  • Does it look like they are standing sideways using one eye more than the other?

Moore Visual Observation Activity Booklet

If you have any concerns about your child’s visual processing eye movement skills after completing these visual-motor activities, I encourage you to consider purchasing the Moore Visual Observation Activity Booklet. In the booklet, I teach you more about how to observe and what to observe. The booklet is filled with fun, purposeful activities that educate you about your loved one’s visual development. Understanding a loved one’s emotional and visual needs strengthens relationships.

cover page of the Moore Visual Observation Activities Booklet. The text is black and the background grey. There is a blue triangle on the bottom left and white triangle on the bottom right. The MAIT logo is in the white area.

Moore Auditory-Visual Preschool Questionnaire

If you want to learn even more about your child’s behaviors and what steps you need to take to help your loved one, then consider purchasing the Preschool Moore Auditory-Visual Questionnaire. The questionnaire helps you observe behaviors and ask questions related to sound sensitivity, auditory processing skills, hearing deficits, and visual processing skills.

For example, you will learn to observe how your preschooler looks at a book and what behaviors are concerning. What you may see as your little one being silly may be a clue that their visual system is struggling. I will teach you what to look out for with your child’s posture, eye movement, and eye alignment.

If you decide to register for the Preschool Moore Auditory-Visual Questionnaire ($10.00), you receive a document of pre-questionnaire activities. Once done, your Preschool Moore Auditory-Visual Questionnaire Report improves your ability to communicate your concerns with professionals and your family physician. At any time, schedule a FREE Phone Consultation with myself, Cheri Moore, to receive resources and find providers near your home.

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