The 5 Best Ways to Improve Spatial Skills in Children
A child’s ability to process information spatially can shape the course of his or her life. Not only does such an ability lend itself to success in mathematics, the STEM fields, and many other careers that require high spatial aptitude such as, graphic design, astronomy and physics - it also provides benefits when it comes to everyday actions such as merging onto a freeway or exploring a new city by foot without getting lost
With such important factors riding on a child’s grasp of spatial reasoning, it comes as good news that these skills can be trained through practice. In this article, we’ll go over five of the most effective techniques for teaching spatial skills to children.
Construction systems are any type of kit that allow children to build structures, immersing themselves in a 3D world of their own design. They are highly interactive and leave room for children to think creatively which makes them an ideal option for teaching spatial skills.
When choosing a construction system to teach spatial skills, it’s important to keep in mind that the more open-ended and unstructured the system is and the more options for creating it provides, the more students will benefit from it.
That’s why Brackitz, in particular, is a fantastic construction system option for teaching spatial skills to children. Whereas most construction systems have design limitations that prevent a full range of expression, Brackitz allows children an endless variety of ways to design and create. Brackitz allows children to adjust the length and use rotation and odd angles making it a versatile system that inspires individual creativity which is highly beneficial when it comes to teaching spatial skills.
Use of Language
Another way to helpdevelop a child’s spatial ability is to engage them in conversations involving spatial language (Emmorey & Casey, 2002). This would include any discussion of shapes or spatial relationships between objects and can be done at home as well as on the playground and in theearly childhood or elementary classroom.
Try asking children questions that invite critical spatial thinking, such as “Which foot does this shoe go on, left or right? Can you point to that foot? Do you tie your shoe with the left or right lace on top?”
More advanced questions could include questions requiring the child to creatively visualize before answering. For example, “If I cut this loaf of bread, what shapes will it make? Do you think I’ll be able to fit it into the toaster then?”
Allowing children to play certain video games in moderation can be a fun way to help them develop their spatial skills. Good options include video games involving shapes such as Tetris, and 3D exploration and creation such as Minecraft.
Playing these games gives children the chance to immerse themselves in a world of spatial possibilities, strengthening their spatial awareness. As an added consideration, video games have also been shown to be a possible option to help bridge the STEM gender gap (Subrahmanyam & Greenfield, 1994).
Open-ended puzzles, such as Tangram, are excellent for teaching spatial skills such as visual matching and modeling, as well as mental rotation. Whereas typical jigsaw puzzles have only one correct way to put the pieces together, open-ended puzzles like Tangram allow for multiple solutions, which lead children who play with them to develop more flexibility and innovation in their problem-solving abilities.
Exposing children to maps gives them the chance to experience their surroundings from a birds-eye view. Challenging them to visualize the landscape from this higher perspective strengthens their spatial visualization skills. For a fun and engaging map-related activity that will strengthen your student’s spatial skills, try putting together a treasure hunt in the classroom using a hand-drawn map.
Knowing how important spatial skill development in children can be is only half of the equation - the other half is training students to develop these skills so they have the best chance success in their future career path.
Thankfully, opportunities for implementation are everywhere. You can begin engaging students in spatial language discussions the very next time you see them, and construction systems like Brackitz offer a versatile means of communicating spatial concepts.
Whatever option you choose, start implementing spatial skills training in your classroom and watch as your students grow and begin to experience all of the benefits that being spatially adept provides.