Spatial awareness is created through correct sensory processing. Here are five simple activities that you can do with your child or student to improve their sensory processing abilities.
Building 3-D structures –
- 3-D structures can be built from Legos, blocks, or any other object that can be stacked or connected together. Try varying the size of the building materials as well as the building project. In other words, Legos could be used to create a small house while large blocks could be used to build a tall tower.
- Models – Model kits for cars, airplanes, and figures are just a few of the types of model kits available. There is really something for every interest.
Building models requires the development of two spatial reasoning abilities. The first is a crossover skill with building the 3-D structures. In this skill, the child is referencing pictures to build the structure. This is as true for model kits as it is for building blocks. The second is related but extends the need for spatial awareness one step further. Not only must the child look with their eyes to see and copy the picture, they also must use their hands to maneuver the model into the right position. If you have ever assembled a piece of furniture out of the box, you know that finding B to insert into C can involve turning and rotating the item until it matches the picture in the directions.
Board games –
Games such as Chutes and Ladders for young children, Risk, and Puerto Rico for 10-12 years old and up can help build spatial awareness.
Obstacle course –
An obstacle course is a great way to teach positional concepts like over, under, beside, etc. Children with decreased spatial awareness often need to physically practice these to really understand.
Treasure hunt –
A treasure hunt can be valuable, particularly when it is paired with directions and a map. Remember that this exercise isn’t about critical thinking as much as it is about understanding, planning and moving through space. That means that you don’t want to use riddles in your directions. Instead, you would give instructions like:
- “Stand in front of the dog house.
- Turn around so that the opening of the dog house is behind you.
- Take five really big steps forward.
- Turn your body so it is facing the driveway.
- Now take three big steps toward the driveway.
- The treasure is under the blue flower pot.
It also works well to use a physical map that you have drawn. You can give your child a map of your living room that provides a birds-eye-view of the room. Then your child must hide a toy and direct you to it using the map. There are many books and computer games that hide pictures within other pictures that can be useful in developing spatial awareness.
Hide and go seek –
Hide and go seek can be very helpful because it helps a child understand how their own body fits into spaces. They might fit into a cupboard but not into a box. The physical act of trying to get into a box that they are too big for provides their brain with information in a way that simply hearing that they are too big can never provide.
Because spatial relationships are so important to learning how to read, write and do mathematics, working to improve your child’s understanding of spatial concepts is time well spent. The above strategies not only teach spatial awareness through physically experiencing the concepts but also uses play, which increases the appeal of learning.