9 Tips to Develop Spatial Awareness in Kids

by Radhe Gupta

Good spatial reasoning is one of the most important skills that can benefit children both academically and in their future professional careers. It can be defined as the ability or capacity to visualize objects, their shapes, position, relations, and to predict their movement. It’s also known as visuospatial intelligence and spatial IQ. 

However, this skill is not separately addressed in kindergarten and elementary school. Fortunately, there are ways to stimulate and encourage the development of spatial skills in children at a younger age. This involves a number of activities that involve mental rotation, navigation, embedding, 

How can we improve spatial awareness in kids? 

Whether your kid aspires to become an artist, scientist, pilot, engineer, or architect one day, developing strong visualization skills is vital. This is why education specialists recommend play and activities that strengthen such abilities. Here are some examples your kid can benefit from:  

 Construction games 

Construction games are usually very fun for kids of all ages. However, you should make sure that such games actually pose a challenge, and require at least some mental effort. For example, children can be given a model to follow, or they can vary the level of complexity and detail. While there are known examples such as combining building blocks, as in Legos, there are other activities you can consider as well: 

  • Building sandcastles
  • Constructing 3D shapes from toothpicks and sticks
  • Wood and clay modeling
  • Character design – you can teach your kids to construct their own action hero figure 

Everyday spatial thinking 

Encourage your children to talk and think in spatial terms. At a younger age, this involves terms for directions, angles, corners, positions, distance, etc. While you do that, make sure to encourage them to solve everyday spatial problems, such as tieing and untieing shoelaces, knots, loosening screws, plugging cables, etc. Spatial thinking is embedded in all these activities.

Physical exploration activities

Everyday physical exploration is vital for better spatial orientation and balance. This can include a newly built park, a trail park, a scavenger hunt in the backyard, or a visit to a local Chandler playground like Uptown Jungle, equipped with mazes, obstacle courses, and trampolines. 

Practice cartography

Kids are naturally curious, so this doesn’t have to remind you necessarily of a geography class. Think of treasure island maps, or decorative carpets with roads, crossroads, and similar topography. Make a layout of your neighborhood, or create a 3D map using building blocks, or houses from Monopoly. Include landmarks, special places, and some creative concepts. Also, teach your kids the concepts of cardinal directions – North, South, East, and West. Over time, you’ll be able to include the concepts of continents, oceans, the globe, etc. 

Try out some origami

A piece of blank paper doesn’t have to be just that. It can become a beautiful swan, a paper hat, a ship, or a highly aerodynamic paper airplane. Origami goes beyond that. It’s an ancient art form that has both artistic and geometric merits. Learning how to fold paper to create a variety of intricate shapes, can profoundly impact the way your kids think. It can encourage them to perceive and reimagine everyday items and objects in a more creative way. 

Spatial puzzles

Here you could include Tangrams, Rubik’s cube, and other 2D and 3D spatial puzzles. These can be made of a range of materials, colors, and patterns. This will help your child to rotate particular elements of the puzzle, imagine their respective positions, and predict the steps until the puzzle is solved. 

Action video games

Although you might think at first that video games can’t be used in a positive way, there are many examples that are beneficial for the development of spatial skills. Does Tetris sound outdated? You are wrong – there are games that will be considered evergreen classics, for all generations. It’s well known that there are many sandbox and open-world games that are immensely popular these days, so you should try it out with your kid.

Creative photo-experiments

You can teach your kids a couple of fun tricks on how to play with distance and perspective. Spatial relations can turn faraway objects into miniature figures. You can also teach them how to replicate versions of the famous Ames Room. This can result in a really cool photoshoot, but even more importantly, it can teach your children something about human perception.  

Bottom line

Whether your kids are going to grow up into astronauts, realtors, public engineers, or designers, encouraging them to boost their spatial imagination and prowess early on can bring them many benefits. Most importantly, they’ll be able to have more fun with everyday objects, they’ll have fewer chances to get lost, and they’ll solve spatial problems quickly. 

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