Visual scanning: How the Eyes Help Us Explore and Navigate Our Environments

Hello! My name is Maddie Taleen, and I am an occupational therapist (OT) at Partners in Excellence. I have been practicing as an occupational therapist for 7 months and treat clients at the Burnsville location. One of the many reasons that I love Partners is being able to help kids develop their skills and overall independence through play while getting to collaborate and work with other professions!

Today I will be discussing visual scanning …

Visual scanning is the ability to use our eyes to look for things in a quick and effective way. This may include looking left to right when reading, up and down when looking for something, or while walking to make sure we can safely navigate throughout our environments.

We use our eyes to scan our environments from early on in life, such as looking around when exploring toys through play, when selecting clothes from the closest, while reading, writing, drawing and typing, and for safety such as looking both ways for cars before crossing the street, etc.

Activities to improve visual scanning skills:

  • Word searches, connect the dots, mazes, etc.
  • Matching and sorting activities (i.e. by color, shape, size, etc)
  • Sorting socks from a pile of laundry
  • Hide and seek with toys (hide a certain toy or object and have the child look around the room for it)

Occupational Therapy helps by:

  • Providing client centered activities to help strengthen visual scanning skills
  • Helping kids develop and improve their visual scanning skills to participate in their everyday activities or occupations

*Please consult with your occupational therapist for ideas on how to improve your childs’ visual scanning skills!

*Please consult with your child’s pediatrician/physician regarding any visual concerns you may have and for information about their recommendations for eye exams!           

Our occupational therapy team is excited to continue to contribute to our Partners’ blog this year to offer insight into our field. Be on the lookout for more posts from our occupational therapists and certified occupational therapy assistants! 


Case-Smith, J., & O’Brien, J. C. (2015). Occupational Therapy For Children and Adolescents (7th ed.). Elsevier Mosby.

Lego color sort – this little home of mine: Toddler Learning Activities, daycare activities, Preschool Learning Activities. Pinterest. (n.d.).

Visual perception. Tools To Grow, Inc. (n.d.).