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Moving More to Center with Visual Learners

by Sarah K Major February 04, 2016

Moving More to Center with Visual Learners

So much of what I’ve been reading lately has to do with visual learners and identifying which children actually fall into that category. Wow, the list is growing like Pinocchio’s nose!

Most children from ages 4 to 7 learn best through images since they're at the stage in which the right hemisphere (gestalt brain) is rapidly developing as a normal neurological function. You can’t fight nature! Children will develop as they were designed to do.

Many children were created to be strongly visual in their learning style. If you read the experts, this percentage is pretty high.

  • Children who have been identified as dyslexic are visual learners.
  • Children who are autistic learn well through images.
  • Children who have been classified as ADD or ADHD are also visual learners.
  • Children who have spent a great portion of their time immersed in media such as television, video games, computer games all develop a strong visual sense. Even if their neurological wiring would have been predominantly left brained, their experiences in life create a strong right brain and make them visual learners.

I’ve written a lot about how traditional teaching methods are perfectly suited to left-brained learners, and how right-brained children seem to be in the minority. Short of doing a massive overhaul of our educational system (don’t hold your breath on that one!) what can we do?

The Plastic Brain

I've also talked a lot about how plastic the brain is and how much we can shape our children through experiences we provide them. If you are working with children who are strongly visual because of the way they have spent their time and what they have been exposed to, don’t despair! Start providing other types of experiences in small bytes to these pseudo visual learners so that you can begin to move them closer to center. The answer is not to suddenly immerse them in a left-brained classroom, but while you are using visuals to teach them, also begin to nudge them towards a more balanced approach to learning.


Begin to encourage a lot of outside play. Wow, when I was typing that sentence, an image flashed into my mind of a little couch potato being pushed out the door with the injunction to “go play and have fun.” There the poor tyke stands, blinking in the bright sunlight, no clue at all how to play. 

Don’t think this could be true? I’ve seen it happen. Some children spend so much time inside, in passive mode responding to media, that when placed in a situation that requires them to invent an activity, they have no idea what to do. So go outside with the child, already. Have a little activity planned to break him into playing outside.

Activities that develop strong connections between hemispheres:

1. Scavenger Hunt. Make a collection of natural items that catch the child’s attention. Explore them on the spot. Do they have a particular texture? A distinctive smell? What about color? Then when you have a nice little collection, engage the left brain by asking the child to describe briefly each item she picked up. Talk about what some items have in common and how they differ from each other. The tactile exploration of nature is wonderful for creating neural pathways and the more often it is repeated, the better for the child!

2. Dribbling. Using a soccer ball, play outside, kicking the ball first with the left then the right foot. If you do it together, each of you with his own ball, you could make it more fun. The cross-lateral movement strengthens connections between left and right hemispheres of the brain and helps children when it is time to do school tasks that require both regions of the brain.

3. Silly Stories. Collect images you cut from magazines, newspapers, travel brochures, or find in clip art…any image that catches your eye. You can even find pictures of common items such as a fork, a belt and a button, etc. Glue these pictures on cards of the same size. When you have collected a nice stack of photo cards, shuffle them. With the cards face down, have the child select three cards at random. Then have her lay the cards on the table and look at them. Ask her to invent a silly sentence that includes all three of these words. For example, the child might draw the following cards and create the sentence "I ate my carrot with a fork in a wagon."

At first, it might be hard for her, so you could play too, modeling for her your thoughts as you invent a silly sentence. I’ve done this with children as young as preschool and I would have them tell me something about all three items while I wrote what they said. OH MY GOODNESS! We had the most amazing stories emerge. This activity helps children begin to tie visuals with words. Start very small. A phrase is great. Over time if you keep on doing this activity, the child will become more and more fluent with her words and will likely begin to embellish until she has a little paragraph. If you make yours silly, the exercise will be fun. And fun is good!

4. Play Simon Says to help the child listen, think, and control the motion of his body. To activate the connections between multiple regions of the brain, go outside and PLAY. Do activities that require hopping, balancing, tipping, spinning, etc. Simon can tell the child anything he wants to after all! “Hop on your right foot three times” or “Spread your arms out like wings and stand on your left foot.”

5. Red Light, Green Light is another great game to help a child learn to listen and control his movements. For the green light which signifies GO, just hold up a simple green paddle or other object. The child will be able to run forward until the moment in which you hold up the red paddle. This game is great for children who have been classified as ADD because it will activate their frontal lobe…the center for forethought and body control. This is especially true if the child gets points or a token of some kind for each time they are able to stop or go when they receive that signal.

6. Charades is a great game to combine verbal, visual and body movement. For young children, you can have pictures of objects or animals on cards. If you're playing with multiple children, deal everyone a card and then when it is the child’s turn, have her stand up and strike a pose or act out what is on her card. Ask the others to guess what she is and say why they think she is what they guessed. Encourage conversation between the players in which they verbalize their thoughts.

Once you begin these activities with your child, you will think of many more. Make conversation. Ask questions that encourage your child to think through possible outcomes. Experiment outside. For instance, if you have a wagon and you pull it down a gentle hill, will it go faster or slower if you load it full of rocks? Have your child guess the outcome before trying it out, giving reasons for his choice. Then try the experiment, and talk about why the experiment turned out as it did. Choose two objects of differing weights and shapes and have your child predict which will go further when tossed. Have him throw the objects as hard as he can and see which one went further. The wonderful outcome of activities such as these is that each time you do them, whether or not you see any change at the time, communication is being established between different regions in the brain which over time will help your child simply blossom!

Sarah K Major
Sarah K Major


Sarah's absolute belief in every child’s ability to learn, and her passion to empower the child by supporting his/her own unique giftedness have fueled her life’s work and provided a new pathway for children to succeed academically.