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Spatial Sense: Glossary

A mother and small daughter clean up toys while kneeling on the floor.
Shot of a young woman spending quality time with her adorable child at home | Dean Mitchell/Getty Images
Here are some key terms to remember when teaching your child about spatial sense.
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You can learn more about how to playfully grow your child's knowledge of location and position words — such as beside, under, over and behind — at home in the Parent Workshop: Spatial Sense

Terms for Parents

  • Spatial sense allows children to describe objects and relationships between objects and places. Spatial words can describe the features of objects in space (e.g., curvy, tall) as well as where objects are in position to one another (e.g., next to, to the left of, above) or how things move (e.g., up, down, out). For example: The big chair is above the floor and underneath the table.
  • Perspective refers to how and where we see objects on a plane relative to each other. Your perspective of an object's position may be different from another person's perspective if they are in a different location. For example, you might be able to see a tiny cloud over a building but another person standing in a different place can't see it.
  • A grid is a table made out of uniformly spaced rows and columns that can be used to pinpoint an object's location.
  • Directions are words we use to help us give the locations of things. For example, you can say to your child, "You can find the classroom if you walk five steps forward and turn to your right."
  • Symmetrical means that an object corresponds in size, shape and relative position on both sides of a line that divides it down the middle. For example, an equilateral triangle is symmetrical because if you draw a line right down its center, the two shapes on each side of the line are exactly the same.
  • Process is a series of actions or steps taken in order to reach a certain result or end. Processes can include how you think about a problem, the decisions you make to solve it, or even how you organize information.

Math Talk

The more you talk with your child about location and position, the more your child's spatial sense will grow. Here are some conversation starters to practice with your child:

  • "Will you please hand me the laundry basket behind the door?"
  • "Let's stack these shirts on top of each other into a big tower."
  • "I see a grey sock under the pile of shorts. Can you find it?"
  • "Turn the faucet to the right to turn the cold water on"
  • "Which way should your toothbrush go back in the cup?"
  • "You have so many teeth! I see teeth in the front, on the sides, on the top and on the bottom of your mouth."
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Related Workshop

This article is part of our Spatial Sense workshop, which helps parents and caregivers playfully build children's knowledge of location and position words.