Phonological Awareness: Visual Discrimination

Just as naturally as we draw a child’s attention to sounds, we also begin identifying people, objects and places.  Interacting with an infant and toddler we often reaffirmed, “mommy”, “daddy”, “grandma”, “grandpa”, etc. developing facial recognition skills.  We identified animals (e.g. dog, cat, horse), objects (e.g. bed, spoon, chair, table, cup),  foods (e.g. apple, orange, banana, toast), and places (e.g. bedroom, store, park).  As a 3- 5 year old child continues to learn about the world, Visual Discrimination and Visual Memory Skills are developing and begin to get fine-tuned. 

Once again, remember to provide numerous and varied learning opportunities because children do not all learn at the same time, or in the same way.  Each child is different, and children develop at varying rates.  Some children will quickly grasp, and enjoy an activity, while others need repeated learning opportunities.


Visual Discrimination  is a general title that includes visual discrimination,  figure ground and visual memory skill development.

  • When you are outside explore nature! Observe the sizes, shapes, color and texture of grass, trees, insects, plants, rocks, etc. . Say, “Look at the big tree.”  “Feel the grass.”   “Touch this soft flower.”
  • Ask you child to find two items, or shapes, that are the same. Ask him to explain his thinking.  Ask him to tell you why he thinks they match! Listen to the child’s reasoning.
  • Sort toys together! Ask your child to help you sort socks in the laundry.  (She should be finished randomly dumping the laundry basket out now! J ) Sort drawing tools.

For more ways to develop Visual Discrimination Skills check out these 26 task cards at:



 Why is this important for Reading?

Definition: A general term for visual skills that require the ability to detect specific features of an object to recognize it, to match or duplicate it, and to categorize it. * Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012                                                                  (


If a child is unable to distinguish the letter “b” from the letter “p,” he will incorrectly read the word “bat” as “pat.” Similarity, to the trained eye it seems easy to identify letters like: “h, n, r”; but, to a child who is learning to read and write, these letters may all look ‘about’ the same. Isn’t it amazing how much a young child learns?

Visual Discrimination:
Activities like sorting shapes strengthen a child’s observational skills … a process that enables the brain to interpret visual information.

Figure Ground: Finding “Waldo” challenges the brain to search for a hidden picture among lots of visual images.  Playing games like “I Spy” or going on a scavenger hunt also develop the ability to visually locate and identify shapes and object embedded in a busy background.

Visual Memory: To a child a chair is a chair no matter which way you flip or turn it.  Now we tell them that the symbols for letters and numbers may look similar but they have different meanings!  Learning to identify and name colors and shapes helps to develop visual memory skills.

Have fun playing games and visually identifying and naming objects as you come across them!  Sort and classify.  Look at shapes, outlines, colors and size.  Talk about likeness and differences.

Have fun!



  1. Thank you Bethany! We are on the same page. I believe all children should be provided with numerous and varied opportunities to maximize their learning potential. And I am a true believer in metacognition…get the kids to “think about their thinking” rather than provide answers that they think you want to hear.


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