An Easy Visual Motor Activity for Kids Using Magnets

Visual Tracking Activity with Magnets

This simple visual motor activity using magnets is great for many skills and can be used during math and language arts. It’s a kid favorite and one or my favorites as a pediatric occupational therapist. This fun game is a great way to work on fine motor skills and visual perception that children need for learning tasks!

Are you looking for a fun activity that addresses multiple skills at the same time? And supports academic skills during learning centers in the classroom? 

I’m excited to share one of my favorite activities during occupational therapy sessions with children.  I love using this easy visual motor activity with magnets.

Firstly, this activity works on grasping, reinforces hand dominance, and it improves visual motor integration and tactile/kinesthetic awareness.

Secondly, if you set it up properly and cue kids on how to hold it, it addresses shoulder stability, visual trackingbilateral coordination, and crossing midline.

Additionally, it involves motor planning, visual focus, visual scanning, and concentration.

Finally, no matter what you choose to work on for learning, this activity helps with visual discrimination, visual memory and visual sequential memory.

These are all fundamental skills that are important for the brain to help kids strengthen fine motor skills, visual perception for enhanced learning.

This is a great way to work on skills during math or language arts in your classroom learning centers

I’ve adapted and used this simple visual motor magnet activity in a variety of ways for kids to support learning!

First, I’ll explain where I got the idea for the activity (TracKit.)  Then, I’ll share ways to adapt it and how to make your own version of the activity. 

TracKit by Mary Benbow – A Cool Visual Motor Activity

Mary Benbow is an occupational therapist who created TracKit.  I purchased one many years ago and still have it.  I love using it with students!

[You can check out the set and purchase it on Therapro.com – however, it’s easy to create your own version!]

TracKit contains a large round plastic tray, 5 reversible cards, and a small slider.

The large circular cards fit into the tray. They contain pictures, letters and numbers.

The slider is a plastic disc with a ball inside.  Students hold the tray with two hands and tip it gently to move the slider to various targets on the cards.

TracKit requires stabilization, proper grading of movements, and precise controlled movements as the slider moves around.  

Using the tray and slider requires more concentration.  As the child holds the tray with two hands, it adds a motor planning and grading of movements challenge. 

The shoulders stabilize the arms as smaller movements tip the tray.

I’ve found this to be difficult for most of my kids with special needs and for the younger kids I work with.  

So, I found a way to adapt it to make it easier.

A DIY Visual Motor Activity Using Magnets

Holding the TracKit tray and carefully tipping it to slow and stop the slider at the targets can be challenging for some students that I work with.  I’ve found ways to adapt the activity or even better, create DIY versions of it that still work on visual motor skills and help improve fine motor development. 

If you’re using the original TracKit tray, instead of using the slider, you can have students use two strong magnets. 

Children hold one magnet below the tray and slide it around to move the magnet on top.  You could also use magnetic cars, bingo chips with a magnet ring, or magnetic game pieces for the top.  Strong magnetic wands or round refrigerator magnets can be used for under the tray or plate.  If a child needs to work on pencil grasp development, I like using two small round magnets stuck together so that only the child’s thumb, index and middle fingers have room to hold and move the doubled magnets under the plate.  Round magnetic bingo chips have been my favorite to use on the top because they’re transparent.

There are endless possibilities for making your own version of this activity.   I find what I have laying around and adapt it as needed by writing letters or numbers on it.

Visual Tracking Activity for Kids
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Sample Materials Needed for Your DIY Visual Motor Magnet Activities

  • Plain white paper plates 
  • Rectangle plates or trays
  • Plain plastic plates
  • Sheets of thick paper placed inside a page protector 
  • Card stock or thick oak tag paper (better if laminated)
  • Plastic trays (with smooth bottoms)
  • Foam board sheets
  • Cardboard
  • Picture cards (for an eye spy game)

This activity can help reinforce bilateral coordination and hand dominance by making sure the dominant hand is under the plate, tray or board holding the magnet.  The helper hand holds the plate or tray at the bottom, in the middle, with the thumb on top. 

To encourage crossing midline, the child should hold and keep the plate in front of their body at midline.  (You can even cue them to pretend their helper hand arm is glued to the side of their body so that it stays still.)

Kids have to keep the magnet in constant contact under the plate, tray or board.  It’s interesting watching how some kids initially have trouble moving their hand under the plate because they can’t see it!  This activity improves body and kinesthetic awareness for them.

How to Use the Visual Motor Skills Magnet Tracking Activity during Math and Language Arts

I’ve used the TracKit cards with kids.  I’ve also made my own magnet activities previously listed, depending on what academic support a child needs.  My favorite version is a large plastic tray or larger foam board sheet. this helps kids’ eyes and hand cross midline.

As an occupational therapist, this simple activity works on many fundamental skills for kids, but it’s also an easy way for me to add learning to it to further support them!  It’s a fun way for kids to build many skills without them even realizing it!

I use this as a warm-up activity during my OT sessions to get the eyes focusing and ready for other learning tasks. I’ve also used it for my whole class lessons. In the classroom, you can add it to one of your learning centers for math or language arts.  Or it can be a simple part of morning work or choice time (my sister used this activity with her third graders; she said many continued to choose this throughout the year!)

You can choose number plates to supplement math or letter plates for language arts. 

When using letter cards, the following skills can be addressed:

  • Identifying letters (following directions, “find the n”)
  • Sequencing the alphabet (capital or lowercase)
  • Spelling names
  • Practicing spelling words
  • Identifying cursive letters (many kids can’t recognize or read cursive)
  • Discriminating b from d
  • Peer interaction (one student says a spelling word, the other spells)

When using the number cards, you can focus on the following skills:

  • Sequencing numbers to count
  • Counting by 2’s or 5’s
  • Finding answers to math problems
  • Counting backwards
  • Peer interaction (one student holds up or says a problem, the other moves the magnet to the answer)

Make your own cards or plates and have kids work on:

  • Tracing shapes
  • Following proper letter formation
  • Motor control through mazes
  • Matching capital to lowercase 
  • Tracking complex crossing paths 

Use these as center activities or at home for practice.

Easy Visual Motor Activity for Learning Using Foam Board and Magnets

Why I LOVE this Visual Motor Magnet Activity

One, kids of all ages love it!  It’s fun.

Two, this activity addresses numerous skills. 

Fine motor skill development is addressed during this visual motor magnet activity. It requires bilateral coordination and upper body stabilization as the non-dominant hand holds the tray or plate, while the dominant hand grasps the magnet underneath. 

A smaller magnet size helps work on pencil grasp development in the dominant hand; kids grasp the magnet using only the skill fingers (thumb, index and middle fingers.)  This helps strengthen and stabilize the fingers within the hand.

Kids are often so reliant on visual input during learning (as noted in the Tactile Learning Activity post.) This visual motor activity improves kinesthetic awareness as the hand below the plate finds, grasps and moves the magnet.  In turn, this stimulates a different part of the brain.

A child focuses and visually scans the letters or number.  Visual tracking is also involved as they follow their magnet during this game.  

Additional visual perceptual skills are also addressed depending on the learning skill.  Visual discrimination is used when locating capitals from lowercase, b’s from d’s, etc. Visual sequential memory is used when sequencing the alphabet or practicing spelling words.  

If the tray or plate is large enough, the dominant hand and eyes also cross the midline of the body.  (If the child keeps the helper hand at midline, and if he or she doesn’t twist or turn the trunk or head.)

In summary, this simple visual motor activity supports academic learning tasks while also addressing many developmental skills!!

Share this on your favorite social media network!  Pass along to teachers and parents.


If you like this simple activity, be sure to check out these posts:

Easy Visual Tracking Activities Using the Infinity Loop (and Flashcards)

Gross Motor Skills and Motor Coordination Activities in Occupational Therapy

15+ Activities to Improve Visual Skills for Learning

Simple DIY Math Manipulatives for Tactile and Kinesthetic Learning

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School-Based OT

Amy Hathaway MOT, OTR/L, CIMI-2 is a licensed and registered occupational therapist.  She is the founder of Develop Learn Grow. 

Amy has 22 years of experience as a pediatric occupational therapist.   She enjoys collaborating with teachers, parents, therapists, administrators, and support staff in preschools & schools, as well as coaching and guiding parents of infants and toddlers in their homes.

She is married and has three children.  Click to read Amy’s bio.  

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