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Attention Parents: An Important Word About Toys

It is time to find presents for our kids for the holidays. Most parents try to find toys that are not only fun, but are either educational or help with overall development. Fortunately, many toys play a vital role in not only overall development, but also visual development.

When 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. There are more than 17 visual skills in addition to being able to see “20/20” which are vital to reading and learning.

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)

Here are some toys that help to develop many of the visual skills required for reading and learning, in addition to helping with overall development:

3 – 5 Years:

  • Lego® Duplo®
  • Stacking Peg Board Set
  • Imaginets (Mindware)
  • Bean Bag Toss Game
  • Kid K’Nex

6 – 8 Years:

  • Ring Toss
  • Marble Runs
  • K’NEX Imagine
  • Hasbro Jenga Classic Game
  • Osmo kit

9 – 14 Years:

  • Set: Family Game of Visual Perception
  • Ladder Ball Set
  • Suspend game (Melissa & Doug)
  • Loopz™ games
  • SmartGames Quadrillion

Wishing you 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 a developmental optometrist who provides in-office vision therapy programs that are designed to help children develop the visual skills necessary for learning. To find one near you, visit:

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

Dr. Matthew Anderson, Developmental Optometrist, provides vision care for the entire family and also provides specialized services in the diagnosis and treatment of vision problems that interfere with reading and learning. Dr. Anderson is a popular speaker with parents and professional groups and may be reached at (204) 633-5566. For more information visit his website:

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