Visual Perceptual Skills

What Is Spatial Awareness and How to Help Your Child Develop It?

Visual perception skills allow your brain to make sense of what your eyes are looking at. It develops as children interact with the objects and people around them in increasingly complex ways. When your child can develop the skills to understand and express spatial skills, it’s the first step in them understanding spatial awareness and ability like:

  • Body awareness
  • Visual perceptual skills
  • Math skills

What Is Spatial Awareness?

Spatial awareness is where you’re aware of yourself or other objects in space. It’s where you have an organized knowledge of these objects in relation to yourself in that given space. It involves having the knowledge and understanding of the relationship of the objects after there’s a change of position. It’s at the center of learning and carrying out countless tasks and involves understanding the concepts of:

  • Distance
  • Direction
  • Location

As perception is the interpretation and organization of sensory stimuli from your environment, your child would have to have sufficient sensory processing skills and body awareness to have the ability to form the relationship of their body with the objects and stimuli within that space.

How to Help your Child Develop Spatial Awareness

Teachers and caregivers play a huge role in supporting development in spatial and geometry relations by providing children the opportunities for structured and unstructured activities.

Here are some ways to help your child develop spatial awareness:

1. Going through obstacle courses: Your child needs a substantial amount of spatial awareness to negotiate an obstacle course. Have the courses vary and grade them according to your child’s ability to move under, over and around objects.

2. Playing movement games: Any type of movement game where your child needs to move around friends or obstacles can help. Moving around moving objects is much different than moving around stationary objects since moving objects are unpredictable. 

3. Playing with blocks: Block play provides your child with a unique opportunity to become aware of space through arranging and positioning objects next to each other. For instance, when first starting, threes and fours would not complete enclosures with blocks. 

After your child learns to close up spaces, they start to name their enclosures (i.e. house or farmyard). Experiencing the enclosure concept while playing blocks help your child represent the abstract idea of space mentally. But, it might still be hard for them to visualize spatially regardless of whether something they’ve just constructed can’t fit in the enclosure.

4. Providing verbal descriptions: Provide various opportunities for your child to hear descriptions of where objects are in relation to one another or where they are. Take for example — “Let’s step over the block” or “The pen is on the left side of the desk.” Play games with your child that require them to follow directions, such as “Be A Robot.” Provide worksheets where your child can follow directions of which colors they should use for different shapes or letters. 

Pediatric occupational therapy implements spatial awareness games and activities that can help your child with this skill. 

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