Spatial reasoning activities for kids help them in understanding shapes and making their mental notes. Like a simple drawing of a house can be described as an arrangement of two rectangles, a parallelogram and a triangle.
Spatial reasoning is an ability to manipulate shapes and orientate them mentally. It is an ability to understand how different shapes fit together to make recognisable objects.
Tangram is a famous game and one of the popular spatial reasoning activities for kids. It involves geometry, problem solving, visualisation and pattern predictions.
Visual-spatial skills are of great importance for success in solving many tasks we face in every day life. Like following directions on map, driving a car or interacting with our environment. It is the key in developing a child’s sense of size, space, shape, position, direction and movement.
A few days back, at a Parent’s workshop, I devoted almost 20 minutes emphasizing on the significance of Spatial Reasoning in Early education. Spatial reasoning is an essential math skill. Teaching math without addressing Spatial reasoning would be like making a broth without salt. It would have all the necessary ingredients and yet no taste.
So, what exactly is Spatial Reasoning?
Spatial reasoning is the ability to manipulate shape and objects, either mentally or physically. It involves:
- Rotation of objects and understanding how the object would look when rotated;
- How shapes and objects fit together and how they can be manipulated. Like how puzzle pieces fit into each other and how diamond shape could be made by using two triangles;
- Visualizing elevations and layout plans of buildings and objects. For example how would a building look from front or from a bird eye view.
- Understanding relationships between size and shape attributes of objects. Like it is impossible to fit a square into a triangle of the same size.
Spatial reasoning is intricately linked with geometry and visualization skills. In the same way, Math is linked to spatial abilities. To think about Math, only in terms of numbers would be a great injustice. Math abilities are much beyond numbers and their manipulation.
Think about this: Albert Einstein came up with his best work – The Theory of Relativity – by imagining himself on a beam of light and travelling into space. How would that be possible without spatial reasoning and visualization skills?
Early explorers, like Christopher Columbus, Sir Frances Drake, Vasco Da Gama, relied on their spatial skills to navigate around the world. In fact, it would not be wrong to say that without spatial awareness great continents would not have been discovered.
Movies like Finding Dory, Moana are other examples that accentuate the significance of spatial skills in our lives.
Why Spatial Skills Are Crucial in Early Education
1. Early Spatial reasoning is closely tied to Mathematical abilities and is a strong predictor of Math skills. Young children who are better at mental rotation have better arithmetic skills and number sense.
2. Spatial skills are crucial for development of problem-solving skills, critical reasoning skills and even reading comprehension, as suggested by research.
3. They contribute to essential life skills like parking car, using maps, packing lunch etc.
4. Spatial abilities lay the foundation of advanced math skills and help in proportional reasoning, data management and processing skills.
5. Spatial Reasoning is a key skill in STEM education and Arts. It clearly gives a head start in STEM to children when taught from a young age.
6. These skills can be nurtured over time and improved through practice and education. Current education system, especially Early Education, lay little emphasis on these skills. Hence, making them all the more important.
7. Spatial Intelligence is believed to enhance cognitive skills including IQ.
According to a Research, a single 20-minute session of mental rotation puzzles improved the math performance of the children in control group compared to their peers.
The evidence is compelling and positions Spatial Intelligence at the forefront. There is no reason for parents and educators to ignore this crucial skill. Spatial Reasoning, is indispensable!
When you engage your child in simple activities like blocks, painting and drawing, you are essentially enhancing their spatial reasoning skills.
For young children, research indicates a direct relationship between spatial reasoning for kids and their arithmetic abilities at primary level. There is also evidence suggesting that these skills influence early reading abilities of children.
However, even with the increasing evidence in importance of spatial skills for kids, they are rarely included in kindergarten or primary curriculum. That puts children at a severe learning disadvantage.
But, the good news is that spatial skills for kids need not be limited to school learning. As a parent, you can do numerous spatial reasoning activities for kids to cultivate and enhance these skills at home and without spending too much on toys. From letting them play freely with blocks to moulding clay, every household has ample material to develop spatial skills.
16 Spatial Reasoning Activities for Kids
1. Block towers
This is one of early spatial reasoning activities for kids. Let your child stack all the blocks into a tall tower and crash it all over the place. Before you snap at her for not making a structure, stop!
When young children stack blocks and later crash them, though how mindless it may appear, they are working on their sense of geometry, balance, size, shape and position. View this crashing as a precursor to advanced structure building skills.
2. Draw and Paint
Every child draws and paints. Be it random lines or a well-drawn picture, it helps children explore the concept of space and geometry. Encourage your children to paint a picture by looking at their surroundings or from their favourite book.
3. Play dough
Inspire your children to make objects they see in their surroundings using play dough. Manipulating dough into a real life object or an animal indicates a well developed spatial understanding and reasoning skills. Encourage them to create different objects, shapes and patterns using their own imagination.
4. Take them outdoors
Spatial skills require lots of visualization. Unleash their imagination by taking them for a walk in a nearby park, to the supermarket or a zoo. The more they observe, better they will get.
5. Board Games and Puzzles
Board games teach planning, following instructions and other spatial skills. Similarly, puzzles aid visualization of how and where to fit the piece.
Do not limit your child to jigsaw puzzles. Tangrams are equally fun. Let your child explore it and manipulate the pieces the way she wants. It is not necessary that your child makes pictures according to the challenge cards. Free play is good too!
This ancient Japanese art of paper folding heavily relies on spatial skills. So cut some square sheets out of old newspapers and engage in some origami fun. Start with easy origami like paper planes, boats and gradually progress to tougher challenges.
Origami requires lots of patience and practice. It is a good idea to do it together so your child can see and follow you. Once they are confident enough, they can play with origami independently.
7. Explore Maps
Introduce maps to your child in a fun way. Help them figure out the street they live on. If you can’t get them to sit on a map book, let them try their hands on Google Maps.
Children are often attracted by technology and get fascinated when they see themselves moving on the app. When you are returning home from an outing, ask your child for directions to home.
8. Use the Jargon
Exposing children to the correct jargon can greatly aid the process. Introduce directions, left-right, up-down, inside-outside and spatial words early on. This would help your child in visualising as well as describing their mental imagery.
9. Matching Structures
This is a fun game where you create a structure using simple blocks or legos and your child has to re-create the matching structure.
Start with a simple house or a building. Show it to your child for a minute or less and ask her to make its replica. Such activities train children to observe objects and create their mental pictures, thus enhancing their spatial reasoning abilities.
One of the much loved spatial reasoning activities for kids, photography helps children analyse pictures from different angles and depths.
Encourage your children to take different pictures of the same object and compare how it looks from top, front and back. These are similar skills that architects use in engineering drawing.
11. Explore Shapes
Shapes are the foundation blocks of spatial reasoning. Invest good time in building sense of shapes and their attributes in your children.
Enquire how different shapes are used and how their shape attributes influence their use. Though seemingly simple, a good unit on shapes can deliver immense benefits to your child’s spatial reasoning, logical and mathematical skills.
12. Story Building Games
This is one of the spatial reasoning activities for kids that integrates literacy and comprehension with spatial reasoning. Read a book together and then ask your child to draw a structure/building/scene from the book.
Highly engaging, this is one of the best quiet time spatial reasoning activities for kids.
13. Animal Yoga
For children who love to love, this is a must try. Ask your child to observe an animal card and make a yoga pose out of it. You can even play animal yoga videos.
This is one of a few spatial reasoning activities for kids that dwells of body modulation and visualisation of one’s own body. Seemingly simple but not as easy.
14. Explore Tessellations
Tessellations are geometrical wonders. To make a tessellation, you must master the art of manipulating objects in space.
Learning about tessellation positively influences your child’s spatial reasoning, geometry, logical and mathematical skills. We don’t see any reason to miss them.
15. Loose part structures
Loose parts structures present a great opportunity to explore spatial reasoning skills. Let your child’s imagination run wild with loose parts like pebbles, pencils, wooden sticks.
Invite your child to create something unique and out of his imagination using loose parts. This would require a great deal of spatial awareness along with the knowledge of science to combine and balance objects. A great spatial awareness boosting STEM activity, this is a must try.
16. Experiment with Jenga
Give Jenga blocks a twist and use them as building bricks for making structures. Take inspiration from famous structures or from those in your neighbourhood to make architectural structures. With younger children, make shapes using Jenga blocks.
Lastly remember, Spatial Reasoning is not an inborn skill or gender dependent. It has to be cultivated and nurtured through practice. That said, it is never too late or too early to start with child.