Figure-Ground Perception - June 2010


June 2010 Newsletter  

A newsletter for Parents/Caregivers, Daycare & Kindergarten Carers, Pre- & Primary School Teachers, ESOL & Homeschooling Families and Special Needs Educators  

In this edition of RedMelon's newsletter:     

  • Monthly Sweet Deals - great products at reduced prices

  • Free Developmental workshops for parents and caregivers in Auckland

  • Product Focus: Geolotto 

  • Figure-ground perception: what it is, importance of, practical ideas

  • Useful Resources and Ideas

  • Become a Facebook fan


June Sweet Deals  

  1. Look & Listen: Transport puzzle + CD
    24 piece floor puzzle with audio of 12 modes of transport
    June Sweet Deal: $33.00 Normally $37.50

  2. Geolotto
    June Sweet Deal: $15.40  Normally $21.00

  3. Spelling Essentials
    A handy little reference guide to English spelling rules and definitions.
    June Sweet Deal: $6.50  Normally $8.50  


Free developmental workshops in Auckland 

Our free workshops are available to anyone interested in learning more about children's development.
* Run out of ideas for games to play with your child?
* Want to encourage your child's emotional, physical and intellectual development?
* Interested in finding out about great educational toys and games to stimulate development?
* Want to get maximum benefit from each toy you buy?
Why not arrange a workshop at a place conveniet for you. Simply invite 3 or more friends along and spend an enjoyable interactive 2 hours together.

East Auckland Homeschoolers who are already arranging workshops, I'm looking forward to meeting and sharing with you over the next few weeks. FYI, it seems that many of you are interested in the Construction and Design workshop. Come along prepared to get involved with designing and building your own unique creations. You'll be surprised at some of the materials we use.... Another popular choice has been the Developing Bilateral Skills workshop which I have a feeling will need to be held at a few different venues to accommodate everyone.

If you are not able to make it to a pre-arranged workshop, please get together with your friends, decide where you'd like to meet and give me a call to arrange the workshop. Remember, the more people there are, the more interactive the workshop will be. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how much we can learn from each other's experiences, and hopefully you'll come away feeling encouraged and motivated.

Children are welcome to attend, but remember that the workshops are aimed at parents and caregivers. I will have some toys, games and books available for them to play with, but please bring along a snack or drink for them. Some shorter workshops (Geostacks & Mega Peg) are focused around mums with thier babies and toddlers. 

Some workshops you may be interested in:

  • Baby Workshop: a general overview of mental, physical and emotional development in the early years. This is intended as an introduction before looking at each area in depth.

  • Shapes and Blocks: the value of playing with a variety of shapes, and block building (for caregivers of children age 0-6 years)

  • Construction and Design (for caregivers of children age 4-10 years) - a fun, practical hands-on workshop

  • Developing Early Mathematical Language

  • Getting Ready to Read

  • Getting Ready for Formal Learning

  • Developing Bilateral Skills: practical ideas and activities 

  • Geostacks & Mega Peg (workshop for mums with their toddlers) 

Get together with your friends and arrange a workshop. Remember, the hostess receives a 15% discount voucher for her next online purchase. (See website for terms and conditions which may apply.) 


RedMelon Recommends  :  Geolotto 

 Suitable for children 4-10 years old.

The boxed set of the GeoLotto game consists of 54 matching overlay cards showing 8 different shapes, 6 base boards and instructions for a variety of games.  

Many early learning skills can be developed by playing the games suggested in the instructions:

  • Visual perception: learn to notice similarities and differences in shape and colour.

  • Analysis: each of the cards needs to be carefully analysed before finding its matching Overlay Card on the Base Board. Differences in shape and colour need to be carefully observed.

  • Part-Whole Relationships: on some of the Overlay Cards, only part of the shapes can be seen. Children learn that the whole shape is indeed present - some of it has simply been obscured by the shape in front of it. Other products which also encourage development of whole-part relationships are puzzles and Geostacks.

  • Shape Constancy: some shapes have been turned at different angles, helping children learn to recognise the shape regardless of the angle or direction in which it is turned. Young Designer, a product by Smile Education for children aged between 5-10 years takes Shape Constancy a step further. The product includes shapes of different thicknesses and sizes as well.

 Other ways in which to use the overlay cards and base boards:

  • Recognise a picture from a verbal description: One player describes the card while the other players identify whether they have it on their base board. (Detailed instructions included in the game). This helps to improve vocabulary, descriptive language, listening skills, concentration and an awareness of detail in colour, shape and position.

  • Choose 6 matching pairs for this memory game. Shuffle the cards before placing them face down on the table. The first person turns any two cards up. Keep them if they are a matching pair. If not, turn them over, remembering the picture on each. The next person does the same, trying to find a matching pair. The winner is the person with the most matching pairs. Use more pairs for older or more experienced memory game players.

Each GeoLotto set contains instructions for many more games

GeoLotto is on special this month. Purchase during June and save over 30%.  


Figure-ground Perception  

“Mum, I can’t find my sneakers!”
How often have we heard this, even though they are under the children’s noses!  Besides inattention, it could be the result of your child having difficulty distinguishing the foreground (sneakers in this example), or “figure” from the background (the other shoes in the closet), the “background”.   

Learning to visually isolate one shape from a group of shapes will help your child to learn to concentrate and focus his attention on one task at a time. This skill is essential in many reading and mathematical activities. Marianne Frostig, when commenting on her Developmental Test for Visual Perception stated that children who find it difficult to recognise words often seem to have disturbances in figure-ground perception. 

What is Figure-ground perception?   

Perception is what goes on in our internal mental world: how we organise and give meaning to raw data which we receive from the outside world through our senses.
Auditory figure-ground perception is the ability to hear the voice of one speaker over the   background noises (music, other conversations, road noises).
Visual figure-ground perception is an inborn tendency which allows us to distinguish objects from a background.

In this picture we see the letter “b”, but in reality it is a series of connected coloured squares. Children with figure-ground perception difficulties may struggle to see the "b" amongst the other squares on the background.
Babies are born with basic organising tendencies, eg the ability to distinguish an object from a larger background. Think of holding an object in front of a baby. Because the baby is able to distinguish the object from the background, it reaches out to the object. The baby was not taught this, but  does so automatically as a way of exploring and interacting with the world around it.

To get a better idea of visual figure-ground perception, try the following exercise: 

The top rectangle contains a  6-sided figure. Which of the figures in the bottom row also contain a similar 6-sided figure?


Yes, they all contain the 6-sided figure. You may have to look very closely at some of the figures, but as you do you'll be aware that you are engaged in a fairly rigorous figure-ground task, deleting from your attention the lines that may not be significant in order to create the figure you seek.

A simpler example for younger children is one in which they have to find hidden items in a picture like the one below. Can you find a pickle, a mug, a strawberry, girls face, pencil, bottle, bucket and the letter “V”.  

A larger, printable version of this picture is available here.

Children with figure-ground weakness may have difficulties learning when there are too many words or images on a page. They can find it difficult keeping their place when reading and scanning from one word to the next in a smooth way will be challenging. Other difficult tasks could be finding a word in a dictionary, map-reading or seemingly simple tasks like completing mazes (drawing between boundaries) or dot-to dot pictures (joining one dot to the next without becoming confused by the other dots/numbers). Copying could be difficult as they are prone to loosing their place or omitting sections of work. Understanding pictures could be difficult because they struggle to differentiate the outlines from the background.  

Children who are easily distracted are often unable to focus on one object while ignoring or blocking out the background. By minimising background distractions (noise, too much colour or detail etc), children with attention span difficulties often find it easier to concentrate and learn.

As with all aspects of perception, figure-ground perception can be further developed with practice.

Practical ideas to improve figure-ground perception:

  • When reading, use a book marker below the sentence that is being read.

  • Play “I spy” games.

  • Carry out specific instructions that involve looking for and fetching specific things (find the red pencil in the box; look for a picture of a flower on this page; design a treasure hunt).

  • Sort objects according to shape, size, colour, thickness etc. Smile Education’s Young Designer game is ideal for this.

  • Identify objects in pictures with a lot of detail (as in the picture above)

  • Use tracing paper to trace patterns or complete mazes, do dot-to-dot or spot-the-difference pictures.

  • Write a sentence without spacing between the words. Help the child to find the words by placing the spaces correctly.

  • Word searches

  • Find words in a dictionary.

Free figure-ground worksheets available here. More worksheets will be added to the website over the next few weeks. Please keep looking.  

I also highly recommend Bridging with a Smile workbook which contains a large variety of visual perceptual activities. 


Useful Resources and Ideas

  • Stinky Stickers:
    Scratch 'em and sniff 'em for a burst of fragrance! Acid-free, non-toxic and even safe for use on photos and for scrapbooking. Stinky Stickers are popular with teachers as rewards and encouragements. Approx 60 stickers per pack. 

  • Reward Certificates:
    Reward progress and achievement with cheerful awards which kids are proud to take home and show off. Recognition awards celebrate everyday accomplishments and big moments of success. Easy to cusomise for each occasion and child.
    The "Happy Birthday" awards can be given by teachers to children on their birthdays. Each pack contains between 25 - 30 certificates. Size: 215 x 140mm  


Refer to a Friend

Have you enjoyed reading our newsletter or found some useful products on our website? Why not tell your friends about RedMelon.  Or become a fan on our new (and still being developed) Facebook page. Please leave a comment about how you found our services or how you think we could improve our website and content.  

Please email me with ideas and topics you'd be interested to read about in future newsletter.  We will soon be adding a Feedback/Testimonials page to our website and would love to add your feedback about our newsletter or products. Your comment about something you've read or feedback about a product may be just the encouragement or information someone needs. 

Hope to see you at a workshop soon.


FREE developmental workshops in Auckland


Contact Sue to make a booking.



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RedMelon Educational Resources
(09) 962 6961 (Tues-Thurs, 10-4.30)
021 2355 272

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