Visual Spatial Puzzle Play, An Art-for-Brains Activity

Visual spatial difficulties in children may not be as easy to detect as auditory processing challenges or other visual processing weaknesses. Understanding visual spatial relationships is so critical to math and reading that the topic deserves our attention and understanding.


Help students strengthen visual spatial perception, critical for math and reading, the fun way.  Visual Spatial Puzzle Play, An Art-for-Brains Activity is appropriate for classrooms, homeschool and therapeutic intervention for kids in early elementary and beyond.


Signs of Visual Spatial Difficulties

Does you struggling reader show signs of difficulty in any of the following areas?

  • Place value or aligning numbers appropriately.
  • Interpreting graphs, charts, diagrams or maps.
  • Reversing numbers, letters or words.
  • Visual tracking, as in skipping or repeating lines while reading.
  • Locating items or gathering materials at the end of the day.
  • Spelling.
  • Sequencing.
  • Tracing and cutting.
  • Inconsistent spacing in written work.


This is not an all-inclusive list. For example, some students who struggle with visual spatial awareness have trouble with personal space, may bump into things or stumble on curbs or steps. They may easily become physically lost, or often lose their place in books or on tests. They may have trouble seeing the big picture, focusing too much on the details.



Visual spatial awareness challenges are also not the only reason students may have trouble with spelling, or tracking, or sequencing.



That said, if you know of suspect that a child has weak visual spatial skills, you can help strengthen these skills in a number of ways. I offer just a few suggestions below.




  • Consider helping your child learn to subvocalize. If a task requires multiple steps, students can quietly or internally say the steps until the task is complete.
  • Checklists may help highly disorganized students gather their materials at the beginning or end of the day.
  • For students who skip lines, easily lose their place while reading, and/or habitually reverse numbers, letters and words, take a look at How to Help Children Strengthen Visual Tracking Skills, and Why for added support.
  • For students who struggle with sequencing such as remembering phone numbers, spelling words in the proper order, or even remembering the order of the alphabet, visual sequential memory activities may help.
  • Finally, provide struggling students with puzzles, puzzles, and more puzzles!  Visual Spatial Puzzle Play can help you do just that.



Visual Spatial Puzzle Play

This printable puzzle pack includes ten puzzles in both color and black and white. You or your students cut out sixteen puzzle tiles to use when solving each puzzle. Each tile is 1.5” which you may attach to 1.5” building blocks if you so choose. Otherwise, use the tiles as is and help strengthen fine motor skills in the process.



Three levels of play for various skill levels make this activity perfect for multi-level homeschools, classrooms and therapeutic environments. The included suggestions for increasing and decreasing the challenge expand not only the visual spatial skill development but the art aspect of this “Art-for-Brains Activity” as well. One alternative use for these puzzles is a simple stand-alone art activity.



Want to learn more? Visit Visual Spatial Puzzle Play in my TPT store now.


Profile of a Unique Learner: The Daydreamer

Here we are at the sixth and final blog post in the series Profile of a Unique Learner. Are you ready to meet The Daydreamer?


The Challenge

Amanda experiences a little something referred to as attention focus disruption. Attention focus disruption can look a lot like, and is often confused with, Attention Deficit Disorder, or defiance, or even laziness. It is none of those things.


Amanda often lives in her own little world. Her mom affectionately calls her a daydreamer. Her concerned dad (not so affectionately) calls her a daydreamer. Her teachers report that Amanda’s daydreaming interferes with classwork.


Should you encourage your child’s daydreaming or should you worry?  Find out in Profile of a Unique Learner: The Daydreamer.


Amanda rarely appears to listen to instructions. Either her eyes wander, or she doodles on anything and everything in front of her. Her paper. Her desk. Her hands. This does not exactly endear her toward the people requesting her attention.


Amanda’s attention always moves to the most interesting thing in the room. If her teacher doesn’t happen to be it, Amanda disengages.


While Amanda is quite social and has plenty of friends, she isn’t particularly chatty. She also isn’t a big fan of reading. You can attribute these traits to low verbal processing skills, but you certainly can’t dismiss her as unintelligent. On the contrary, Amanda is incredibly bright.


The Good News About The Daydreamer

When we encounter a student whose mind is off in space, our first instinct is to respond with “Pay attention!”


Actually, if blank, unresponsive stares are involved, I hope one of your first instincts is to rule out a possible seizure disorder or form of Tourette’s syndrome. But that’s a whole different story.


If you find yourself with a daydreamer like Amanda who may often appear under-stimulated or bored, congratulations! You are likely in the presence of a gifted child.


Just like The Storyteller and The Flip Flopper, Amanda is a visual thinker. She thinks in pictures, not words. This not only makes her highly curious, it makes her think faster than her verbal thinking peers.


Unfortunately for Amanda, this means she reaches boredom quickly. As she waits for everyone else to catch up, she searches for ways to keep her mind challenged and engaged.


Yes, she looks like she’s daydreaming. But while she’s daydreaming, she is engaging (and strengthening) her gifted imagination. Please, whenever possible, do not discourage her! This type of daydreaming is actually a good thing.


Many students like Amanda have the enviable talent of keeping multiple channels of thinking open all at once. In other words, don’t get in a huff when you suspect she’s not paying attention. She’s probably daydreaming AND listening to you at the same time.


Reading Help for The Daydreamer

For students who fit The Daydreamer profile, these are just a few suggestions.


Attention Focus Training

While we certainly want to nurture the gifts of any budding creative genius, we don’t want our bright young thinkers to be distracted by every shiny object.


A good place to start attention focus training is to have students keep eyes on a target for a goal of 3 minutes, all while walking toward and away from the target. Once they reach their 3 minute goal (which may take weeks or months to achieve, by the way) we increase the level of difficulty and set a new 3 minute goal.


Visualization Training

This may seem counterintuitive for someone who already thinks in pictures. However, the key in this case is to use a student’s visual strengths to bolster weak verbal processing.


Relating heard information to visual imagery builds understanding and recall. At the basic level simply say any word (avoid non-visual words) and ask your student to describe it to you in detail. Practice with single words, then build up to phrases, then sentences.


When ready, apply these same principles to written words using vocabulary cards and simple reading material. Progress to more advanced passages until visualizing written material becomes second nature.


Visual Tracking

Some struggling readers like The Daydreamer (and The Storyteller) find themselves reading random words from different lines on the page. Suddenly they read a word from 2 lines above or 3 lines below the line they are reading. Building Visual Tracking Skills THE BOOK targets this issue plus helps students build visual discrimination skills at the same time.


Care to read the entire Profile of a Unique Learner series? Here you go:

Profile of a Unique Learner: The On Again Off Again Student

Profile of a Unique Learner: The Storyteller

Profile of a Unique Learner: The Flip Flopper

Profile of a Unique Learner: The Excessive Studier

Profile of a Unique Learner: The Troublemaker



Quick Quote: Joseph Campbell on Fear and Courage

Illustrated quick quote: Joseph Campbell on fear and courage.


Printable Hearts Grid Maze with Secret Message

What child doesn’t love to uncover secret messages? Hidden within this month’s free printable for kids is a message perfect for Valentine’s Day.


Kids crack the code to reveal a secret Valentine’s Day message as they make their way through this printable grid maze. Shhh! You’re secretly helping them build visual discrimination skills, visual figure ground skills and even more learning skills in the process.  Don’t worry. Your secret is safe with me.


By the way, it’s perfect for anyone who happens to love love, too, any time of year.


How to Reveal the Secret Valentine’s Day Message

Follow the upside down hearts from start to finish. Each heart has a letter. Write each letter, in sequential order, to reveal a secret Valentine’s theme message. (You’ll find the answer at the bottom of the page.)


For access to this Valentine’s Day printable, Hearts Grid Maze with Secret Message, either sign in or sign-up in the box to the right. You’ll find an ever growing list of free printables for kids waiting for you.


And wouldn’t ya know it. These Valentine’s Day printables are waiting for you, too:

Valentine’s Day Bookmarks for Kids

Printable Mosaic Valentine as Envelope

Seek and Find and Color Me Hearts



Word Play for Visual Discrimination, An Art-for-Brains Activity

Thank you to everyone who showed an interest in my earlier post, Visual Discrimination Activities for Kids. When I shared why visual discrimination matters and how we can help children strengthen this necessary visual skill, I suggested a few basic activities.


How grateful I am to see that you’ve been sharing my post with great enthusiasm! I’m always thrilled to help fill a need, so today I take it up a notch and bring you a new design.


Word Play, An Art-for-Brains Activity for kids takes visual discrimination practice to the next level.


Help children strengthen visual discrimination skills critical for ease of reading with Word Play, An Art-for-Brains Activity.


Appropriate for first through fourth grades (and beyond), Word Play is a deceptively fun way to boost your students’ ability to recognize similarities and differences so critical for ease of reading. Ease of reading, of course, equals confidence in learning. And confident learners equal happier kids!


While you’ll discover more detail on Word Play’s product page, take a look below at the activities kids will enjoy.


Three Engaging Word Play Activities to Strengthen Visual Discrimination


1) Crack the Pattern Code

Students uncover hidden uplifting messages using the provided patterned alphabet as a key.

2) Crack the Secret Word List Code

Students practice process of elimination, deductive reasoning, and advanced matching skills to reveal four hidden words, all with something in common. They then identify the word list theme.

3) Create-a-Card

Using the patterned alphabet as a guide, students draw the appropriate pattern within each letter on a greeting card (five provided), then color and embellish it however they wish. A DIY envelope template is included.


Whether you’re in need of literacy center activities, homeschool or therapeutic skill-building work, or simply want to give your kids something fun to do besides screen time, check out Word Play, An Art-for-Brains Activity in my TPT store ($4).


While you’re there, check out the categories section (on the left) and click “Visual Discrimination” to find more options right for you.


And again, thanks so much for sharing!


Profile of a Unique Learner: The Troublemaker

When Sam’s teacher met Sam on the first day of class she knew she was in for a tough year.


Sam had only one volume – loud. Whether standing or sitting, the boy was never still. His body was in constant motion. Getting him to stay on task? Forget about it.


What happens when a child with learning disabilities decides to give up and become the bad kid?  Find out in Profile of a Unique Learner: The Troublemaker.


When reading, Sam spoke in a monotone, robotic voice, frequently skipped words, skipped lines and lost his place. If he wasn’t truly forgetting to complete assignments he was avoiding them entirely.


In a previous profile of a unique learner we met Beth, The Excessive Studier, who compensated for her auditory processing challenges by doubling down on her efforts in class.


Sam also experienced auditory processing challenges. Unlike quiet, super studious Beth, Sam’s reaction to his learning difficulties was not extra effort. Instead, the confusion he experienced when listening, learning and reading, combined with his high intelligence and need for mental stimulation, made him easily distractible.


Because of being highly distractible, his former teacher viewed him as disruptive, and told him so, repeatedly. Because Sam had no idea how to stop constantly disappointing his teacher, he fully embraced the role of troublemaker. After all, being “the bad kid” was much easier than the nearly impossible task of controlling his distractibility. Being “the bad kid” is also an all too common coping mechanism for deep feelings of inadequacy.


The Good News About the Troublemaker

First and foremost, no matter how many professionals view him as such, this is not a bad kid. With compassionate teachers, parents, and therapists, kids like Sam do not need to see themselves as troublemakers.


Why does Sam constantly interrupt conversations? He is not trying to be rude. He has weak auditory memory skills. In order to get his thoughts out of his head before he forgets them, he simply blurts them out, loudly.


Why can’t this child sit still? Auditory processing challenges manifest in many ways. One way (in addition to poor volume control) is balance disruption. Have you ever been at a standstill in traffic when the car next to you starts moving? Did you have the brief sensation that you were moving, too? Now imagine if that sensation never stopped.


Poor wiggly Sam here is not being defiant. He is attempting to get his vestibular system back in balance. Oddly, he only “feels” still when his body is in motion.


Reading Help for the Troublemaker

In addition to the suggestions below, kids with auditory processing challenges like Sam benefit from the same interventions found in Profile of a Unique Learner: The Excessive Studier. These include rhythm repeat, visualization training, auditory memory skill building, and perhaps even nutritional intervention. You’ll find more auditory memory suggestions in this post, Auditory Memory Activities for Kids and this one, Graph Art for Auditory Memory.


Orientation Training

Wiggle worms like Sam may benefit from orientation training as described in the frequently recommended book The Gift of Dyslexia. In very basic terms, orientation training helps students train their mind’s eye to perceive the world from a centered point of view. Students learn to control their perception, and therefore balance, when needed.


Phrasing and Tapping

When students read every word in the same tone at the same speed and without pausing at punctuation marks, is it any wonder the sentences don’t make sense? Teaching students to read in phrases and to pause at commas and periods (by tapping their finger twice at punctuation, for example) can have a huge impact on a child’s comprehension and enjoyment of reading.


If you do have a child like Sam in your class or home, before pulling your hair out completely please learn whatever you can to become the compassionate, knowledgeable educator that he needs.


Want to read the first four unique learner profiles? Start here. And stay tuned for one more. Next up: The Daydreamer.


Courage of the Blue Boy, A Colorful Message for Kids

Courage of the Blue Boy, another inspiring children's book find.Children’s book Courage of the Blue Boy by Robert Neubecker is more than a story of courage. It tackles topics like diversity, individuality and true self-expression, and does so in such a colorful way!


The Story

Blue is a boy who lives in a town where everything is the same color: blue. He and his friend, Polly, decide there must be something more. Together they venture out into the world in hopes of adding a little more color and variety into their lives. Along their journey Blue and Polly encounter disappointment, joy, fear, and ultimately a great place to be themselves.


What I Love About This Children’s Book

Eventually Blue discovers a town that completely embraces diversity and individuality. Yet, when he first realizes he is different than everyone in this magnificent, colorful town, Blue becomes frightened.


Remembering how much safer he felt when he was the same as everyone else, Blue finds the courage to express his true color despite his fear. Blue’s willingness to express his unique qualities not only helps Blue. The entire town becomes better for it as well!


I couldn’t help but giggle whenever Polly the calf (also blue) had something to say. Strange, since she only knows one word: “moo.”


This is a simple, delightful picture book perfect for discussions about courage and about expressing your true self. It is also just as enjoyable for the very young who are learning all about colors.


Age recommendation: 3 and up


For a growing collection if inspiring children’s books like this one, visit Children’s Book Finds.