Spatial reasoning can predict a child’s reading and math skills. It is an area Manhattan private schools may assess during kindergarten interviews and playdates. Spatial reasoning may also appear on the new AABL version of the ERB.
To become proficient in pre-school and kindergarten level spatial reasoning, a child should first understand size and comparison vocabulary. For example: Which child is first in line? Show me the cup that is half full. Which chairs are of equal size?
How can you help your child improve?
As mentioned in Say What You Need To Say, your child should be specific with words. Avoiding demonstrative adjectives (e.g., this, that, these and those) is crucial at ages four and five. Additionally, pre-kindergarteners should avoid vague location words such as “here” and “there.” Knowing how to ask and answer “where” questions, and use basic location words typically emerges between ages two and three. The word “thing” should be avoided altogether. Manhattan kindergarten admissions staff would agree.
If you model spatial terms when speaking with your child, he may not only use these terms in his own verbal language, but “think” in spatial terms too. Isn’t it more effective for a child to ask for the full bottle of bubbles, vs. “That one?”
Spatial terms include:
Shapes: Model two and three dimensional shape names.
Play Perfection without setting the timer, with the tray pressed down. Encourage your child to name the shape before placing each game piece into a respective hole. This is an engaging way to work on shape naming, and to talk about where and how the shape is located. For example, if your child can’t find where the bent (spatial word!) piece that looks like macaroni belongs, you can comment “The bent arc – shaped piece goes in the third (spatial term!) row.” When all the holes are filled, set the timer for a few seconds and the game will explode! (Yes, this is enough of a reward / excitement for your 4 or 5 year old.)
Adjectives: close, far, first, last, second, third, big, little, tiny, tall, short, long, thin, thick, fat, empty, full, etc.
You will recognize some of these terms as opposites. Share an opposite puzzle with your child to teach or to increase exposure to these types of adjectives.
Spatial terms – curve, angle, straight, flat, side, etc.
Sketch pictures together and describe how you are drawing as you work. Sketch at the park, at the museum, at home. In kindergarten, my daughter was asked to draw a map of her city block for homework. At first, she used vague words such as “here” or “there,” but after I emphasized spatial reasoning terminology, (e.g., Place the library next to the Chinese restaurant, Put all the trees in front of the apartment building.) she used great adjectives and spatial words too (e.g., edge of the second store, corner of the block).
More on Spatial Language:
While it is clear you should use spatial language in conversations with your child, try to use gesture as well. Just like with Baby Sign Language, gesture helps visual attention and visual memory, which will help your child hold onto spatial terminology.
Incorporate spatial language into daily life. For example: “Let’s buy the big watermelon.” “If we walk across the beach diagonally, we will reach Mommy faster.” and “Wow! We are last in the long line for ice cream!”
Playing with the right tools will naturally encourage spatial language. Try Marble Run. Build the structure together, and encourage your child to talk about where the marble will end up: “Attach the curvy piece to the straight piece, and the marble will end up on the blue side.” Try completing puzzles together, or follow instructions with Legos, just be sure to keep talking about what you are doing, while you are building.
Once your child has the spatial vocabulary down, he should have an easier time with spatial rotation task practice.
If you find your child has trouble understanding and using spatial terminology, or if you are interested in preparing your child for Manhattan private school kindergarten interviews, playdates and testing, please email Stephanie Sigal, Speech-Language Pathologist: firstname.lastname@example.org. Stephanie provides in-home kindergarten preparation in your Upper East Side home.