Perceptual reasoning is a person’s ability to visualize, understand, and work with non-verbal information. As children grow, good perceptual reasoning skills become increasingly important for success at school, particularly in mathematics. Want to improve a child’s perceptual reasoning? Start with Step 1.
Developing Children’s Perceptual Reasoning Skills
Practice with matching. Matching games can boost perceptual reasoning by increasing children’s abilities to recognize and compare visual information. There are an almost infinite number of ways to practice matching, but to begin with, try:
matching colors. Challenge children to find as many blue things as possible, then as many red things, and so on. Ask them to find something in the room around them that matches their shirt or their eyes.
matching shapes and sizes. Use cubes and blocks of varying shapes and sizes and challenge children to match them by shape, by size, or, once the children have progressed, by both at once.
writing letters on cards or pieces of paper and having children look for matches. Once this skill is mastered, you can move on to short words, then longer ones.
challenging children to match words with pictures. This game reinforces the connections between a written word and a visual image. There are flashcards and other games designed for this purpose, or you can make your own.
encouraging children to find items that begin with a particular letter. This game reinforces the connections between a particular letter or sound and the objects and people that letters can represent.
playing memory games. Memory games develop both matching and memory skills. They are usually played with cards, which have symbols drawn on pairs. The cards are turned face-down, and players have to find matches.
Work on the ability to identify differences. Part of perceptual reasoning involves picking up on differences and knowing where something does or does not “belong.” Lots of simple activities can help children develop these skills. For example:
try using “spot the difference” pictures. These appear in magazines, and you can find them in books and online as well. They feature two almost identical images side by side, and children can look to find the small differences between them.
encourage children to find objects that don’t belong. Set up a group of items – say, three apples and a pencil – and ask which object does not belong. As children progress, you can make this more difficult: use an apple, an orange, a banana, and a ball, for example, then an apple, an orange, a banana, and a carrot.
Practice visual memory. Show children a picture, then cover all or part of it and ask them to describe what they saw. Alternatively, show children a set of items, then put them away and challenge them to think of as many as they can. It can also help to encourage children to talk about the images that they see. Have children describe images in detail, tell stories about the images, and compare them with other images.
Cultivate attention to detail. Show children a picture with words or images hidden in it, and challenge them to find as many as they can.
Do puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles and other puzzle games encourage children to practice their visual perception skills: they have to rotate and match shapes and visualize larger pictures. These skills will be foundational for success in mathematics.
Teach left and right. Left-right orientation is part of perceptual reasoning and visual perception. Explain the difference between left and right – you can use the hand a child uses to write as a starting point – and reinforce the concept by asking children to carry items in their left hands or wave with their right hands – whatever comes to mind.
This is also a good time to introduce the concept of directional arrows. Show children pictures of arrows pointing left and right, and ask them to identify the direction.
Develop depth perception. Perception of depth is part of perceptual reasoning. Play children’s versions of darts, basketball, and tennis to develop depth perception. You can also:
pour some items into a box (sticks, blocks, or marbles, for example) and tell children to take items only from the top.
have children close one eye, and turn a glass upside down on a table. Circle with your finger over the glass, and ask children to tell you to stop when your finger gets to the top.
Begin developing mathematical skills. As children grow, they can begin to practice their perceptual reasoning skills in relation to numbers. Have children match numbers and match items with the number that describes them (two balls, three apples, four cups, etc.). As children are ready, begin working on addition and other mathematical concepts.
Helping Children Think Logically
Emphasize the importance of concentration. From an early age, children can be taught to focus on a particular task or idea for short period of time; as they grow, they can learn to concentrate for longer and longer stretches. Teach children that this concentration is important.
Help children succeed at focusing by minimizing distractions – noise, television, electronic devices, other people, and anything else that makes concentration difficult.
Stimulate logical thinking skills. Logical reasoning is a tough skill to develop because so much of it depends on a child’s developmental level. You can encourage logic, however, by giving children opportunities to think about what will happen next and why. You can do this when reading stories or when doing your normal daily activities.
Ask open-ended questions. Asking children questions with words like “why” and “how” stimulate logical thinking more than “yes/no” or
multiple-choice style questions do.
Perceptual reasoning is considered one aspect of one’s overall intelligence. It’s an important ability that will play a major role in children’s academic success.
Stick to games and activities that children find enjoyable. You won’t make much progress forcing children through boring exercises, and there’s no need to – you can practice perceptual reasoning and have fun at the same time.
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