Positive Parenting: STEM Kids and Spatial Words

Research has shown that words describing where objects are in relationship to other things, or spatial words, can support science, technology, engineering, and math knowledge.

Today in positive parenting, we take a look at what the experts suggest parents do to help kids improve spatial language and skills at an early age.

Time in the playroom is time well spent sending trucks over bridges and building towers.

But it’s not just what kids do, but what they say that could make a difference.

Developmental psychologists at the University of Wisconsin studied the language knowledge of 40 kids, all 4 year olds.

Each child was shown a series of objects with a mouse on top and were asked to describe where the animal was using only words.

Researchers found the children with the strongest spatial skills, used more spatial words, were able to adapt to different placements and could more easily understand a change in orientation.

“For example, my left is not your left and my right is not your right,” says Haley Vlach, developmental psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, “It switches when I’m looking at someone.”

Parents can help their child by using spatial language during play.

Putting together puzzles? Guide your child while they orient the piece to fit.

Building with blocks? Name the shapes.

And when possible, use different but similar spatial words. Instead of always saying “middle,” sometimes say “center.”

These are simple activities for preschoolers and parents that could someday make a difference in a stem career.

Social scientists say young children who use more detail when describing the location of one item tend to have more advanced skills when thinking about three dimensional objects.

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