The fall season is the perfect time to be outdoors with children exploring space. Not space as in outer space, but space as in spatial movement. All movement occurs in space, and children who develop a strong sense of space are better able to move safely as they travel through their home and school environments.
Why Spatial Concepts Are Important
Think about your child crawling, rolling over, walking, climbing stairs, crossing the street, etc. Children need to be able to move without bumping into other people or obstacles in their way. To do this, they must understand directions (forward, backward and sideways), pathways (straight, curved and zig-zag), and levels (high, middle and low).
Explore Space Through Movement
Young children learn spatial concepts by exploring movement – and the fall is a great time to explore movement outdoors! As your family plays outside this month, challenge your child to move in a variety of different directions and pathways and to move at different levels.
Here are some fun activites you can do with your child this season to encourage and reinforce the learning of space concepts:
1. Corn Maze: Find a nearby farm that has a corn maze. Explore the different pathways and directions that you can move through the maze with your child, being sure to use positional vocabulary words to point them out. Preschoolers should understand and be able to use words such as above, below, beside, in front of, behind, next to, between, over, under, inside, etc.
2. Treasure Hunt: Create a treasure map for your child to follow with you in the backyard or at the park. Make sure it requires her to move in different pathways and directions, and over, under and through different obstacles in order to find the treasure. Introduce newer vocabulary words as she goes through the course, such as sideways, curved and zig-zag.
3. Follow the Leader: Play games of follow the leader outdoors with your child incorporating different directions, pathways and levels.
4. Obstacle Course: Create an obstacle course in your backyard, including things for your child to crawl under, jump over, go around, go through, jump onto, and jump off of. Draw arrows on cardboard or paper and place them around the course. Ask your child to move through the course by following the directional arrows.
5. Hide and Seek: Play a game where you hide an object outside and your child must find it by following your directions. Incorporate lots of movement and directional vocabulary, such as: ”Take three steps forward. Now turn to your right. Take two steps. Now turn to your left and take two steps. Now take three steps sideways.”
6. Simon Says: Young children like to play games where they identify body parts. Warm up outside by playing a game of Simon Says. Start with: “Touch your head, now your knee, and now your thumbs.” Progress to using right and left, such as: “Show me your right elbow. Now show me your left foot. Now raise your right eyebrow.”
Movement concepts related to space not only help children navigate their way, but they are also helpful in understanding basic science and math principles and can even increase a child’s ability to read from left to right. So get active this fall as a family and use the above activities to take playtime to a whole new level.