Spatial ability is the comprehension and recall of the spatial relations between objects. Spatial skills and math skills are related to each other (see previous blog entry below). When you improve your child’s spatial skills, you generally improve their math skills as well. You don’t have to use high tech or expensive methods to help your kids’ spatial skills. Here are some easy ways to give your kids an edge:
Board Games give children a great visual in the form of the board itself, and there are many that exercise spatial skills. In clinical research, a game similar to Chutes & Ladders with consecutively numbered, linearly arranged, equal-size squares was shown to improve kids’ understanding of the number line. Skippity is an easy visual strategy game that anyone who knows how to “jump” in checkers can learn within 1 minute, and requires kids to visualize each move they are contemplating before acting. Robot Turtles helps kids understand the basics of programming displayed visually on a board. Creature Quest allows kids to visualize and understand the number line – including negative numbers – in a large, colorful graphic.
Children who play with puzzles develop better spatial skills. A recent study by the University of Chicago found puzzle play to be an important predictor of spatial skills even after controlling for differences in the parents’ education, and household income. When doing a jigsaw puzzle, children visualize where and how a particular piece will fit before they try it. The trial and error aspect reinforces their correct guesses and helps teach them why some of their guesses are wrong. Children are stimulated to learn by self-correction, and learn that persistence pays off. Some puzzles even combine logical thinking with art appreciation, for example, puzzles of famous paintings such as Luncheon of the Boating Party by Renoir.