Spatial Language

Learning the names of shapes and their properties is not the only way that language affects the development of spatial skills. Up. On. Under. Inside. Below. Next to. Short. Tall. These are all examples of spatial language. There are so many opportunities to incorporate spatial language throughout the day. “Mommy will pick you up.” “The cat is under the table.” “You put the small block next to the big block.” But parents vary a lot in how much spatial talk they use.

One group of researchers looked at spatial language during parent-child interactions at home. The more spatial language children heard, the more spatial language they used themselves. Children who used more spatial language also performed better on spatial problem-solving tasks at age 4.5.

Playing with blocks is a great way to boost spatial language and skills. Parents and children naturally use more spatial language during block play. And parents use richer spatial language during play with traditional compared to digital toys. We encourage you to incorporate spatial language into everyday activities too! “You crawled through your tunnel!” “Daddy put you in your car seat.” “I spy something between the swing and the slide. What is it?

Add gestures to help illustrate spatial words as you use them. For instance, you might point from one side of a box to the other as you say, “You jumped over the box!” When parents use gestures with spatial language, their children tend to use more spatial language too.

  • Direction and movement
    refers to the path along which a person or object moves
    Shape awareness
    is the ability to recognize and identify shapes
    Space and position
    refers to the relationship between objects
    Spatial awareness
    includes understanding shape, size, space, position, direction, and movement
    Spatial language
    refers to words that describe the location of objects in space
    Spatial thinking
    is a set of mental skills that we use to reason about the shape, size, position, direction, and movement of objects