Developing Spatial Awareness

Spatial awareness is critical to a child’s success in math, science, and technology [1].

What is spatial awareness?

Spatial awareness is the ability to mentally visualize or intuitively know how objects look when they are rotated, how things fit together, what things look like from different angles or from the inside looking out, and how things exist in space in relation to other things.

Can one develop better spatial awareness?

Spatial awareness is a skill. It can be learned, and it can be improved [2]. A way to develop and improve spatial awareness is through playing with puzzles [3].

Specific, actionable ways to improve spatial awareness using puzzles

  • Assemble puzzles using the picture as the guide and turning the puzzle over without the picture as the guide and assembling it using solely the shapes of the pieces.
  • Visit with your child about the puzzle pieces’ sizes. Find pieces that are smaller or larger in relation to others. Find pieces that have round edges or straight edges. Find pieces that have elements that fit inside another piece and pieces with spaces where another piece will fit into them. Compare pieces to one another and identify similarities and differences.
  • Visit with your child while doing the puzzle using words like next to, on top of, beside, on the bottom, or adjacent that label the piece’s position in relation to others.

As you explore the puzzle pieces together and use language to describe what is being seen and done, you will strengthen your own and your child’s spatial awareness.


Happy Puzzling!

Cortney & Val

[1] Ishikawa T, Newcombe NS. Why spatial is special in education, learning, and everyday activities. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications. 2021 Mar 23;6(1):20.

[2] University of Colorado at Boulder. (2018, October 9). You can improve your spatial skills with training. ScienceDaily.

[3] Levine, S. C., Ratliff, K. R., Huttenlocher, J., & Cannon, D. (2012). Early puzzle play: A predictor of preschoolers’ spatial transformation skill. Developmental Psychology, 48, 530–542.

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