Placing and stacking promote basic spatial concepts and skills.

Activities for Children On Spatial Relationships

by Debra Pachucki

Foundational learning about spatial relationships begins in infancy, when children start to perceive and interact with their surrounding environments. As children continue to develop, so does their understanding of dimension, size, space, motion and other factors that determine the many interrelationships between people and objects. Foster your child’s ability to understand special relationships from multiple perspectives as he enters different learning stages.

1. Infants

Encourage your baby’s ability to track objects by slowly moving a rattle across her line of sight. As she learns to follow the rattle with her eyes, she will perceive how it moves through space and gain a fundamental understanding of objects in relation to her own body. When your infant is able to sit up unassisted, encourage him to reach for toys at varying distances. Slowly roll a ball toward your child and assist him in rolling it away. This shows how the object moves in three-dimensional space. When your baby is about 8 months, provide a container filled with baby-safe toys to foster his understanding of the interrelationship between objects and the spaces they occupy.

2. Toddlers

Toddlerhood is an age of discovery when children actively explore their environment through movement and touch. Blocks and puzzles make for age-appropriate, developmental activities that encourage toddlers' understanding of spatial relationships. Encouraging your toddler to stack blocks of different sizes will promote his understanding of dimension and size. Use simple jigsaw puzzles to encourage his ability to comprehend how the pieces fit together. You can also promote his understanding of spatial relationships with something as simple as a muffin pan -- simply let your child push, squeeze and stuff different age-appropriate toys into the compartments.

3. Preschoolers

By the time children reaches preschool, they can successfully navigate and interact with their environments in basic ways, such as walking through doorways and seating themselves at tables. Continue to promote your child's development of spatial-perceptual abilities by providing activities that encourage increasingly complex movement and navigation. Hopping on one foot, dancing with a partner, and swinging on the swing set all promote concepts of space, dimension, direction and spatial relation to other people and objects, while also developing gross motor skills. A classic game of “I Spy” will also promote spatial skills, such as a preschooler’s sense of direction and location.

4. School-Age Children

Elementary school students and teenagers can sharpen and refine spatial skills through advanced activities that encourage comprehension of spatial-relationships. Age-appropriate jigsaw puzzles reinforce concepts of size and shape, while arts and crafts such as jewelry-making or sculpting with clay promote kids’ understanding of interrelated parts and dimension, respectively. Encourage advanced spatial-relationship concepts with activities such as bike riding, which promotes navigation and direction, or basic carpentry, which promotes an understanding of size and dimension.

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