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The Importance of Spatial Awareness in Early Childhood Development


Spatial awareness describes the capability of a person to realize where his body is in space, with respect to objects or other individuals. It aids spatial perception which describes the way the brain processes the physical relationship between objects and space. Moreover, this perception can be visual perception, depth perception or motion perception. 

A child lacks spatial awareness if he has difficulty judging distance, speed and placement of objects. Such cases have over time raised the essentiality of spatial awareness in early childhood development – which is the main focus of this discourse. 

Table of Contents

What is Spatial Awareness? 

Ways To Help Children Develop Spatial Awareness 

The Importance of Spatial Awareness in Early Childhood Development  

What is Spatial Awareness? 

Girl with toys. Spatial awareness
A girl with toys

Before we dive into the definition of spatial awareness, it is essential to first understand what the word ‘spatial’ entails. 

The Word ‘Spatial’

The word ‘spatial’ originates from the latin word, ‘spatium’, which means ‘space’. Hence, it defines the fitness of objects in relation to space or anything that relates to or occupies space. 

Thus, as stated earlier, spatial awareness defines the consciousness of the matters or objects around us in relation to space. Also, it is the ability to receive two or more objects relative to each other and our bodies. 

The development of this skill allows children to participate in a range of activities at home and on the playground. However, as children start moving around and exploring their environment, they learn how to successfully position their bodies in order to interact with their environment successfully.

Spatial awareness majorly involves spatial orientation and spatial visualization. The first component, which is spatial orientation, is knowing where you are and how to get around. The second component, spatial visualization is the ability to generate and manipulate images in your mind. 

The key to promoting spatial awareness in children is to allow them to explore their surroundings. Nevertheless, as children become more mobile, they are able to crawl and later walk to objects and gain for themselves an understanding of how many steps it takes them to reach a specified object or a particular location. 

When children can move themselves, they will also come to understand how their location to objects changes as they move. Conversely, there are yet a lot of ways that parents can help ripen spatial awareness in developing children..

Ways To Help Children Develop Spatial Awareness 

Child playing ball. Spatial awareness
Child playing ball

Research illustrates that the right side of the brain is mostly involved in the development of spatial awareness in children. However, some children may have trouble developing spatial awareness because of several health conditions that include;

  • Partial or complete blindness 
  • Autism spectrum disorder 
  • Dysplasia 
  • Cerebral palsy 
  • Turner syndrome

Nevertheless, the following activities can help develop spatial awareness in children;

Talk About Locations

Being aware of locations is an important phase of development in early childhood. An example of this is leaving a toy on a table and telling the child about where the toy and table are located. Therefore, endeavor to give a child the description of where he is or where an object is to develop his understanding of the relationship between him, objects, and space. Another example is telling a child the following;

  • The pencil is on the right side of the desk 
  • Your water bottle is behind the chair

This helps to ensure that children grow and understand their environment better. They understand location better and get acquainted with the happenings around them.

Discuss Distance 

Discuss how far or how close things are from your child’s current location. This can be achievable by allowing the child to play games or engage in sports activities that relate to distance awareness. Measuring distances, such as using steps, may also be helpful to the child’s growth regarding measurement and location.

Teach Shapes and Sizes

 Identifying the shapes and sizes of objects contributes to children’s cognitive development. However, to help a child to be good at this, you can help him point out the shapes and sizes of objects. Examples include telling the child words like: 

  • Your plate is a circle
  • This block is larger than that block

Explore Directions 

Try giving your child simple directions, such as “raise and move your left hand” or “march forward and go right into the bush.” You can also hide a toy and give them directions on where to find it. It works their brain and gives them the intuition of understanding direction better.

Play Games

Various games and activities can help a child learn spatial awareness. Examples include puzzles, blocks, nestling cup, hoola hoop, hokey pokey and so on.

Different kinds of puzzles, ranging from jigsaw to legos help your child grow with spatial awareness. The game creates an opportunity to showcase their problem-handling skills by recreating patterns and imagining how different patterns can fit into a given space. 

Another kind of game is ‘blocks’ which helps children to learn many different things about the physical world around them. It helps to teach children about gravity and how objects interact with one another. It is also valuable in helping them reach other milestones such as those associated with balance development and fine motor skill development through grasping. 

Also, nesting cup can challenge your child to experiment how objects fit into each other. These are great experiments of spatial relationships.

Get Active 

In this case, you should consider going to a playground and encouraging your child to play on the various kinds of equipment. Additionally, sports-related actions such as playing catch can also be advantageous. Also allow your child to relate with other children and play games with them. For example, activities like jumping and dancing can be of great help.


Writing letters and numbers with the correct orientation and spacing letters and words on a page can improve children’s spatial awareness. It helps them plan, organize themselves, and relate with objects around them. 

Developing skills that express the understanding of space is the first step to enhancing spatial ability. Such skills include math skills, visual perception skills, and body awareness.

Importance of Spatial Awareness in Early Childhood Development   

Children playing toys. Spatial awareness
Children playing with toys

Comprehending groupings and characteristics of objects allows children to mentally deploy and physically consolidate things in their minds and environment. It connects children to their environment and heightens their awareness. 

However, the following explains the importance of spatial awareness in early childhood development; 

Mounting spatial awareness and recognizing spatial relations allow children to sail across their environments. It allows them to move around freely and relate with the objects in their environment. 


Using spatial language allows children to express themselves in different contexts probably by pointing to objects, engaging an object, expressing happiness around certain environments or objects.

Spatial awareness enhances a child’s spatial language. Spatial language provides children with essential tools and words to describe their environments and negotiate their wants and needs. This aids their skill of solving spatial problems. In addition, the spatial language includes words describing locations such as under and below, features such as high and low, shapes names such as triangle and sphere, etc.


Spatial awareness is a cognitive skill that children must develop or are expected to develop at an early stage of the brain development process. It is the mainstay of the art working behind one’s visual perception of an object. 

Furthermore, some mathematical concepts contribute to the development of spatial awareness. Examples include geometry and arranging of numbers. In many classrooms across the world, teachers are not stressing the concepts of geometry and spatial awareness. Geometry instruction for children is the act of sorting shapes and identifying the basic shapes (i.e., circle, square, and triangle). 

Mathematical competence for children relates to their spatial awareness, which includes a recognition of shapes in their surrounding environment and involves counting objects in their surroundings. Also, similar parts of the brain are used when performing spatial tasks as when performing number tasks. 

This spatial-numerical link prepares students for mathematics throughout their education. This primary coaching will stimulate their learning in other parts of the school syllabus. So associated are spatial perceptive and mathematics that the spatial thinking abilities of children can be used to envisage math competency for adults.


Spatial awareness enhances proprioception which is the awareness of your body and limbs in your surrounding space. For instance, when you need to pick something from the floor, you need proprioception to know how to move your muscles to pick the object. 


Spatial awareness is a basic feature that helps children understand and relate to their environment properly. The more they become conscious of objects with respect to space, the better they develop their cognitive and interpersonal skills.  

However, the role of parents and caregivers in enhancing children’s spatial awareness is essential for their growth and development.