Do you want your child to be great at putting things together? How do do you want your child to be following instructions – and giving others directions?
Recent research has shown that that way you talk with your child has a marked impact on how good they are at spatial tasks.
Spatial ability is being able to do tasks that involve the relationships between objects or parts. Children need to learn to understand concepts of directions, size and direction. It seems that the earlier they learn the words for these concepts, the better children are at doing tasks that need these skills later.
When we learn to be able to do these things in our head, this is often called visuo-spatial understanding. We often need to be able to visualise, or manipulate in our head, how things can change and what they will look like when they are in a different place, size, shape or direction. We need to understand how things work and fit into the space around us.
Every day life requires these skills for children to move around without bumping into things, make complex constructions out of blocks, do puzzles, follow directions in a particular order, work out how far away something is, give directions, ride a bike, or cross a road.
Adults need to be able to read maps, work out where we are going, and put kit furniture together. Some occupations require very high level visuo-spatial skills, like architecture and design.
If children have difficulties with movement, balance, or reading and writing, they may be tested for visuo-spatial skills. This may include seeing if they can recognize an object from part of it, imagine an object rotated to a different orientation, or copy patterns.
It appears that children are better at all these skills if they learn words early that explain these shapes, directions and the relationships between objects. The research found that, when parents play with their children with construction toys, and use these kinds of words, their children become better at the spatial tasks.
Words for size, shape, direction and location, as well as words for quantity and time, can be easily used in play sessions or in daily life. Vary according to your child's age. They are only likely to use these words if they hear you do it first.
Through the tunnel.
Around the corner.
In the deepest hole.
Put the circle on the tall tower.
Next to the red book.
Other activities to do together might include puzzles, drawing, play dough and sand and water play. In everyday life, bath time, cooking and gardening are ideal opportunities for spatial words. When you are walking around the zoo or driving to Grandma's you can provide an on-going commentary for directions and encourage your child to join in.
As well as giving your child good spatial skills, you will help them with sentence construction by teaching them prepositions (like in, on, under) and adjectives and adverbs (describing words like largest, fastest, gigantic).
For more information see adelejane.com under language development.