Spatial awareness with infants and toddlers

Spatial awareness activities can easily be implemented into the day in natural ways with children.


Spatial awareness, also known as geometry, includes knowing about shapes, space, positions, directions and movement. All children need opportunities to play with blocks and puzzles. To help teach the concept of spatial awareness with young children, use puzzle and block play vocabulary as your child plays: above, below, in front of, next to, rectangle (all shapes), rhombus, edge, corner, face and side. “The block that is red is above the block that is blue.”

Playing with puzzles helps build spatial awareness skills. A child is required to determine which piece goes where and then manipulate the piece to get into the shape. Puzzles also help develop problem-solving skills by recreating patterns.

Michigan State University Extension provides the following ideas to help young children learn about spatial awareness:

  • Use math talk: “Jason went under the climber and Suzie is on top of the climber.” “You are sitting next to the dog/cat/your sister.” “Some of the blocks are round and some of them are triangles.”
  • Play with shape sorters. Talk with the child about the color and number of sides.
  • Have the child crawl through a tunnel or be in a space where they can see both ends.
  • Play games like “Pat-a-Cake” and “This Little Piggy.”
  • Play with puzzles with knobs.
  • Boys and girls need exposure to blocks. Girls may play differently with blocks, but it is very important that all kids have access to blocks. It will be the foundation for success in future geometry classes.

Other resources from the National Association for the Education of Young Children:

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