Improving Spatial Awareness in Toddlers: Games & Activities

Improving Spatial Awareness in Toddlers: Games & Activities
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Spatial Awareness

Spatial awareness, or spatial ability, is the knowledge and understanding of the position of objects in space, usually in relation to the self [1]. Without fully developed spatial awareness, humans would be unable to feed themselves, play games and sports, or generally move around and function without crashing into everything in sight. Well-developed spatial awareness is also linked to successful skills in reading and math as well as to artistic creativity [2].

Spatial ability begins to develop immediately after birth as newborns and infants take in their surroundings including the movements of their own bodies, other people, and objects and continues to develop until around the age of ten [3]. Children who lack adequate spatial skills may have problems with reading and writing or may be clumsy but may also have strong auditory memory and verbal comprehension skills [4]. Parents and teachers can help young children develop spatial ability by using the following spatial toddler activities with their youngsters or students.

Spatial Books

Reading books about spatial concepts not only benefits children in cognitive areas such as language acquisition but also helps develop spatial awareness. Above and Below, In and Out, and Near and Far by Tami Johnson are three books in the Where Words series that introduce young children to the words for basic spatial concepts such as “above,” “in,” and “near” in conjunction with colorful photographs that illustrate the words.

Written by Tim Halbur and Chris Steins and illustrated by David Ryan, Where Things Are, From Near to Far takes young readers on an adventure through the country and city while describing the locations of various places in relation to each other. After reading such spatial books aloud, parents and teachers can then continue the lesson on spatial concepts by talking about the locations of objects that the toddlers are familiar with.

Building Toys

Wooden Blocks

Toddlers love stacking things. Using building toys such as wooden blocks and Duplos to construct towers, buildings, shapes, and patterns is a fun activity for parents and teachers to do together with toddlers that helps develop spatial ability. While playing, adults can talk about the locations of individual pieces to other pieces: for example, “I am putting the red square on top of the green rectangle” or “This block is behind that block.” Toddlers can also practice their spatial skills by following directions such as “put this Duplo next to those” and “put the blue block under the red block.” Playing with building toys is an excellent and fun spatial toddler activity that provides the opportunity for talking about spatial concepts.

Action Games

Playing action games allows toddlers the opportunity to experience spatial concepts with their own bodies. For example, singing and using the actions for the song “The Hokey Pokey” forces young children to think about the locations of their limbs. In addition to the tradition “in” and “out” of the song, other directions such as “up” and “down” can be included to expand the activity: “Put your arm up. Put your arm down.” Another fun action game appropriate for toddlers that develops spatial awareness is “Hide and Seek.” Young children must think about the locations of objects in order to hide themselves and find others. A fun variation on this traditional game is to play hide and seek with objects such as toys and dolls.

Spatial awareness, the understanding of the positions of objects and the self in space, is an essential skill that children must master for future educational success. Toddlers will love developing their spatial ability with these spatial toddler activities.