The fall season is the perfect time to be outdoors with children exploring space. I don’t mean 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 — and the world.
Think about your child crawling, rolling over, walking, climbing stairs and crossing the street. 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 zigzag), and levels (high, middle and low).
You can help your child develop these skills of moving through space, and fall is a great time to do it. 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 activities to encourage and reinforce the learning of space concepts:
- Corn maze: Corn mazes are popular family attractions this time of year. Explore the different pathways and directions that you can move through in 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 and phrases such as above, below, beside, in front of, behind, next to, between, over, under and inside.
- Treasure hunt: Create a treasure map for your child to follow with you in the backyard or at the park. Make sure it requires moving in different pathways and directions, and over, under and through different obstacles in order to find the treasure. Introduce newer vocabulary words as your child goes through the course, such as sideways, curved and zigzag.
- Follow the leader: Play follow the leader outdoors with your child, incorporating different directions, pathways and levels. You can take turns being the leader and then following your child.
- Obstacle course: Create an obstacle course in your backyard and include 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 arrows.
- 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.”
- Simon Says: Young children like to play games where they identify body parts. Warm up outside by playing a game of Simon Says: “Simon says touch your head. Simon says lift your knee. Simon says wiggle your thumbs.” Progress to using right and left, such as: “Simon says point to your right elbow. Simon says stomp your left foot.”
Movement concepts related to space not only help children navigate their way in the world, 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.
Of course, children don’t know they’re activating their brains and making higher level connections in their intellectual development. They just know they’re having fun outside with you.
For more on developing science and math knowledge in young children, check out:
- Easy Ways to Teach STEAM at Home
- Incorporate STEAM Concepts into Everyday Experiences for Young Learners
- Encouraging Outdoor Math Fun
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