Spatial awareness isn’t an academic discipline, so we sometimes come away with the impression that it is innate. But that’s not the truth. Just like any other skill, it is something that you can teach – and rather quickly once you know how.
Developing spatial awareness is vital for kids as they grow. Not only does it help them evade danger, but it also gives them confidence over their bodies. Being able to manipulate the world around them provides them with essential skills that they can deploy in social situations, like sports.
So what can you do to encourage the development of this critical area of thinking?
Play Any Game That Involves Movement
A lot of children grow up, glued to screens. They become very good at navigating the digital world, but not the physical. Researchers have found that the muscle strength of western children is going down. They just aren’t using them to the same extent as previous generations.
It is essential that caregivers, therefore, encourage any movement, be it indoors or out.
Movement games are particularly helpful, as is sports. Physical activity helps kids intuitively get in touch with their muscles, create muscle memory, and learn how to adapt their bodies to new situations.
Use 3D Puzzles
Spatial awareness is something that resides in the mind too. Some people can recall a three-dimensional space in their heads and navigate it as if they were there.
Skills like these don’t emerge by chance. Instead, they require practice and trial and error.
Caregivers, therefore, would do well to provide their kids with learning aids. A foam block puzzle, for instance, teaches kids how shapes fit together and forces them to think in new ways.
Create An Obstacle Course
Adventure courses used to be incredibly prevalent in schools and kids clubs, like the Scouts. But over time, their popularity has waned. They’re seen as too physical or dangerous.
The truth, though, is that they offer far greater benefits than risks. Kids learn how to walk along ropes, climb rope ladders, and crawl through narrow spaces. All these learning activities teach them important things about how to adapt their bodies to new challenges. They get a sense of their own size and develop better balance.
Creating an obstacle course is by no means the easy option. But there are all sorts of places where you can find them ready-made. Even fun parks with ball pits can be an excellent environment for building muscle memory.
Connect Verbal Descriptions With Physical Objects
Developmental researchers have long known that language plays a critical role in understanding in academic work. The same, however, applies to spatial learning too.
Some kids naturally understand the physical world. Many, however, need a helping hand from the language centers of the brain.
Caregivers, therefore, can try describing the physical location of objects or get kids to follow directions.
You can also use words in simpler situations. So, for instance, telling a child to step over a puddle can help them do it.