Visual Spatial Minds in Motion

Currently in the US, we are missing a huge intricate piece that is necessary in a child’s development…visual-spatial skill building.  It can happen so naturally in the classroom and provide not only growth mathematically but in literacy as well.  To some, I think they see it as too much of a play-based activity or stress the academic rigor over these skills.  Systematically, we do not see these skills being taught in our schools.  Parents also vary widely in the amount of spatial language they use with children.  Funny thing is that if they included them in everyday instruction scores would naturally grow and there would be less need for intervention or frustration in young ones.  Instead, you would have “the Big League” effect in which students become team players in their learning process and discover how to explain their visual spatial understanding not only with their hands or on paper but with their words.  It’s a home run skill that will make a world of difference in a child’s development. Research shows it also strongly predicts who will pursue STEM careers and future creativity and innovation fields more than math scores.

Visual spatial skills also lends itself to allow students to naturally begin to practice the 6 C’s of learning which are essential to one’s success in school and life.  They learn Collaboration, Communication, Cooperation, Creativity, Critical Thinking and Confidence.    It is a conscious decision a teacher must make to take on the visual spatial journey but one that will open doors for all kinds of learning for a child both academically and socially and emotionally as well.   When a child begins to strengthen their visual spatial skills their metacognition kicks in high gear and they begin to ask themselves and others thoughtful, investigative questions such as:

What do you see?    What do you notice?   What do you wonder?    

What do you know? What are you thinking?

This pictures created by a four year old holds a lot of mystery but can be interpreted in many ways.  Ask yourself the questions above as you glance at this image.


Children need to be agents of their learning, embrace it and take ownership.  Many wonder what this might look like in a classroom and the VISUAL 🙂 is magical.  Here is a quick zoom lens into a classroom that embraces visual spatial learning skills:

  • Child-directed
  • Hands on, exploratory and playful
  • Strong spatial language and be able to describe positioning
  • Daily activities
  • Understand mental rotation
  • Include kids in professional development
  • Labels it as Math

Plato states, “we can learn more about a person in one hour of play than a year of conversation.”  What is more beautiful is that play is so natural for children, so why are we putting up walls in the classroom that leave play-based learning for the playground?

We need to make students AGENTS in their learning and allow them to teach us and others as well.  These play-based, visual spatial activities will allow children to show empathy and truly be productive agents in their learning environment.  BEGIN today!  Please look weekly for new visual spatial activities you can incorporate in your classroom on my Instagram posts @allhandsondeskplay.  

It is important to start with setting a learning trajectory for your students that is attainable and see where it takes you!  Most importantly, you must have fun doing it as well…because “if love comes first knowledge is sure to follow”.  


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