Spatial reasoning is what we do when we visualize and manipulate shapes in our mind. It is one of the critical cognitive abilities used by engineers and architects to design and build structures, but it also extends far beyond that. Even Michelangelo used his spatial thinking when he sculpted his famous work “David”. Research has also found that spatial reasoning improves a child’s achievement in mathematics and other STEM related curricular areas within school.
Cultivating a child’s spatial reasoning is not as hard as it may seem. It requires no engineer degree nor crazy equipment. Some of these things your child may already do, but they all encourage your child to look at their world and objects around them in a new way.
Blocks and Legos
Blocks and the like, are a fundamental tool in the toy box of spatial reasoning development. Building with a variety of building toys helps kids think about and make a 2 dimensional plan then, transform it into a three-dimensional project using their spatial skills. This is especially encouraged for girls, who have been shown to play less with spatial toys than boys.
From the basic shape sorting puzzles for young toddlers to jigsaw puzzles, these time cherished toys help children visualize where and how a puzzle piece will fit.
Using and Creating Maps
Surprisingly, this is not just for school-aged kids. Children as young as age 3 can learn to interpret maps of their bedroom (or other familiar room). Make a treasure map (to a hidden toy) and have your child go on a hunt. Maps can get more sophisticated as children grow, school-age children can begin helping plan routes for your next road trip!
Books can teach so many skills, including spatial reasoning. Look for books that includes pictures from different angles or perspectives that contain maps, and that use spatial language (names of shapes, sizes, orientations…). Books that don’t contain any words also trigger those cognitive abilities, as they require close attention to illustrations in order to decipher their meaning. Mindshift has a great list of spatial reasoning picture books.
As part of our Adaptive, Coordinated, Essentials Customized Curriculum (ACE), our Tender Years teachers focus not only on the standards-based curriculum but also the essential areas for holistic success. This embraces cognitive development, including spatial reasoning.