15 Visual Memory Games and Activities for Kids

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Visual memory is an important part of visual perception. It consists of keeping pictures, shapes, and images in your mind so that you can recall details at a moment’s notice. 

This skill is incredibly important to develop. Kids use their visual memory when they learn sight words, for number recognition, and in problem solving situations. It also helps a child’s pre-reading and reading skills.

In order to improve your child’s abilities, try playing some of these visual memory games and activities for kids. 

#1 Memory Card Game

This game is as old as the hills, and the best part is, you probably have at least one memory game in your cabinet already. If you don’t, there are several variations you can buy that embrace favorite characters, diversity, or just silliness.

Children will use their visual memory to remember the placement of specific cards. Since they have to pay attention when it’s not their turn, in order to excel at the game, it’s also an excellent option for increasing focusing and stamina. 

#2 Stare Junior

A recent gift to my kids, this is one of my absolute favorite games (theirs too!) and it really builds up a child’s focus, visual memory, and recall skill.

The game comes with a board and a large assortment of image cards. Players stare at the cards or 30 seconds (timer included.) Then they roll the die. Whatever number is rolled, another play asks them the corresponding question on the back of the image card. If they answer correctly, they get to move that many spaces forward and roll again. 

It seems so simple but my kids really love it and it’s easy for kids of all ages to play. We’ve even played in the car on road trips. In those situations, we count points instead of using the game board to determine a winner. 

If your kids are older, or you want more of a challenge, check out the original version of the game. 

#3 What’s Missing?

I love this activity because you can play it almost anywhere with anything. The premise is simple: create an assortment of small items and have your child study it for a set amount of time (typically 10 seconds). Then cover up the items and ask your child to list as many as they can remember. 

Make sure that you use objects that your children will already recognize, so there is no confusion about what the items are. 

Next, give them ten more seconds to study the items and cover them up again. Remove one of the pieces while your child isn’t looking, then reveal the assortment again, asking them to name the one you removed. 

Truthfully, I’ve played this in doctors’ offices, restaurants, and at home. It’s super versatile and will increase vocabulary, language skills, and visual memory.

#4 Puzzles

Who doesn’t love a good puzzle? Kids of all ages love to put together puzzles, from those early wooden nesting options, eventually moving on to the giant floor puzzles, and then growing into the higher numbered pieces. 

Puzzles help improve a child’s visual memory in two ways. One, they have to note similarities among piece characteristics, including shape and color. Two, they can use the picture on the box to direct their activities and identify what might go together. 

There is quite literally a puzzle for everyone of any age and ability, and you can even extend your skills with 3D puzzles or unique shapes to practice more advanced skills!

kid holding cards

#5 Slap Jack

A deck of cards and at least two people are all you need to play this simple but helpful game. 

Divide the deck of cards evenly among the players. Take turns flipping cards, one by one, into a central pile. Watch carefully. When a jack comes up, the players slap the pile. The first person to slap gets the cards. 

When you are out of cards, you are out of the game, and the game ends when one player has all of the cards. 

Yes, it can last a while, but you can also take breaks and pick it back up, or just stop it whenever you like to stay even with your child’s attention span. 

#6 Picture Study

A picture study is another activity that you can play anywhere and with a variety of different materials. 

Select a picture for your child to study (on your phone, from a book or magazine, or a piece of art on the wall) and allow them about 30 seconds to look at the picture. 

After, ask your child to look away and ask them questions about what they remember. To work on the recall of specific details, you can inquire about colors, shapes, or settings. You can also ask them to make up a story that goes with the picture, encouraging their language and creativity skills at the same time. 

#7 I Spy

This old school game is a classic for a reason. I Spy will improve your child’s visual memory by helping them to look critically at their surroundings and identify characteristics of objects. 

If you’ve never played, don’t worry, it’s simple! One player looks around the room (car, park, etc.) and selects one object. Next, they identify the item to the other players by only the color, saying “I spy something green.” (Or whatever color the object is.) 

The other players then take turns guessing from the objects they see what the person has chosen. 

I love playing this with colors, but we have also played it with shapes, and even numbers (“I spy six of something.”) when we need to change it up a bit!

Now, there are tons of I Spy books and games available, so kids can play alone, or with their friends in a book to spot the pictures. 

#8 Hidden Pictures

Anyone else a huge fan of Highlights? I loved these magazines as a kid, and the best pages were always the ones with the hidden pictures

While there are other options for finding these activities, the premise is always the same: finding pictures within pictures. 

This improves not only visual memory but also a child’s visual discrimination, being able to tell differences and similarities. 

These same skills will help kids differentiate between similar-looking words, letters, and numbers at school. 

#9 Card Games

I know that there are already activities on the list that include regular playing cards, as well as memory cards, but in reality, most card games help to develop a child’s visual memory. 

Games like Uno, Crazy Eights, and Skip Bo all require children to recognize numbers, colors, and symbols, as well as recall rules, strategy, and be aware of past plays. 

These games will also work on other life skills, such as sportsmanship, a good attitude, and perseverance in participation. Kids love to keep playing when it’s a game they know, or they’re winning, It’s harder to entice them to stay involved when the situation is more difficult, or they are losing.

#10 Quick Cups

Quick Cups is a fun game where players have to replicate color patterns on cards with the colored cups in front of them. 

In addition to increasing processing speed and working on dexterity, the pattern recognition and replication creates a hands-on opportunity to work on a child’s visual memory. 

Reproduction of a pattern or picture is an excellent way to practice and improve on this type of skill.

spot the difference game for kids

#11 Spot The Difference

Another favorite from kids’ magazines is the “Spot The Difference” game. This is when two similar photos are put side by side and kids have to pick out all the things that are different between them. 

When looking from picture to picture, children must keep the image in their minds in order to compare the two and spot the differences. There are varying levels of this game, with easily spotted swaps for younger children, and more intricate details for more advanced kids.  

#12 Picto-Phone

The Doodle Challenge where someone draws a picture on your back and you try to replicate on a picture is taken to the next level with the game of Picto-Phone. 

Picto-Phone is a pictorial version of the classic game of “Telephone” where kids whisper a message to each other, and then giggle at how the sentence gets garbled during transmission. 

In this version, players stand or sit one in front of the other. The person at the back of the line looks at a picture, and then draws that picture on the back of the person in front of them. That person draws what they felt on their back and pictured in their mind’s eye, on the back of the person in front of them, and on and on. 

The last player in line draws the picture on a piece of paper and you compare that paper to the original drawing. The more people, the more difficult the challenge becomes, but it’s easy to play with just two people as well, activating visual memory with sensory input. 

#13 The Magic Cup Game

Everyone has seen a version of this game, where you put a ball or small toy under one cup, and then move multiple cups (3 is the most often used number) around and then ask “Which cup is it under?”

You can play this game at home with as many cups as you like and use small toys or anything that fits underneath the cup as the hidden object. Adjust how quickly you move the cups depending on your child’s level. They will have to track the correct cup among the movements, increasing concentration and helping their visual memory grow.

#14 Copy The Picture

Honestly, many kids do this activity naturally. Children often try to replicate what they see on television, in a book, or even what’s on the back of the cereal box. 

Taking a picture and breaking it down into smaller shapes to recreate it takes a lot of visual detail and concentration. Children will have to remember the end goal, even as they work on smaller pieces of the picture. They have to see both the forest and the trees, and at the end, they’re rewarded with their own creation of something they love. 

If your kids are just getting into this type of drawing, I suggest starting with the grid template to help children focus on little bits at a time. 

#15 Word Jumbles

I loved doing the Kid Jumbles in the newspapers growing up, and I wasn’t very old when I graduated to the adult version. 

With a word jumble, the letters of a word are scrambled up, out of order, and you have to move them around to figure out the original word. 

Jumbles and scrambles often have a secondary code that takes one letter out of each correctly arranged word and becomes a final scramble. 

Obviously, word jumbles work best for children who are good readers, but even new readers might like to take a crack at it, especially if there are pictorial clues to help them guess the right word. 

The End Game

Kids learn through play. They explore, develop, and strengthen their minds and skills when the have hands-on activities that are interesting and engaging. 

Games like “Quick Cups” and activities such as “Copy-the-picture” are the perfect solution. 

With so many different opportunities to help your child’s visual memory grow, you can help them learn, and have fun all at the same time.

Emily is a former language arts teacher, turned professional stylist and freelance writer. She and her husband are high school sweethearts, raising their three boys in the same neighborhood where they grew up. In her free time, Emily enjoys running, baking, and singing along to Broadway soundtracks.