“Keep Your Eye on the Ball!” Visual Tracking in Pediatric Physical Therapy
Visual tracking is actually a vision milestone that a baby achieves around 4 months old. The definition is when a child focuses on and follows an object in their visual field. For example, they may watch you walk across the room, or if you move a rattle from one side to the other, they will keep their eyes on the rattle.
Visual tracking is a huge milestone that affects a child all throughout their lives! It is important for reading, writing, hand-eye coordination, walking through hallways at school, and even sports!
Visual tracking may not seem like it's important in the physical therapy world, but it is! For one, visual tracking is really important for developing connections in the brain and beginning steps for each side of the brain to communicate with each other. Developing these connections continues throughout infancy with rolling, reaching, and crawling! So this is like step number one to build on lots of other gross motor skills that makes up a nice strong brain! For two, we can use visual tracking to achieve a desired outcome, like head movement or improved tummy time. For example, in children with Torticollis, they may prefer to look one way, but with visual tracking, we can "lure" them to track a toy to the opposite side to work on active and passive stretching!
If you notice that your child is not tracking around 4 months old, mention this to your pediatrician. It may seem like a "sleeper" milestone, but it is one that a child builds off of the rest of their life! See my Instagram page for more information on other milestones.
Now, go practice visual tracking! If you have an infant, shake a rattle in an arc from the left to the right and have them follow it. If you have a child, read a book with them and have them follow the words. If you have a teen, play some baseball and have them "keep their eye on the ball" (figuratively!). Enjoy and watch the brain go to work!