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9 Simple Activities for Developing Position In Space

What is position in space, why is it important and how can you develop a child’s spatial skills in the early years?

Here are some simple tips.

What is Position in Space?

Position in space is the ability to determine one’s position relative to an object.

Proprioception (one of our seven senses) is responsible for a child’s body awareness and determining their position in space.

A child must first learn, through experience, where their body is situated in space and in relation to other objects before they are able to determine the relative position of objects. This is known as spatial relations or space perception.

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Body in space awareness and spatial relations form part of a child’s visual perception, which is about making sense of what the eyes perceive. 

Some other visual perceptual skills are:

  • Visual discrimination – seeing similarities and differences.
  • Visual memory – remembering what is seen.
  • Visual closure – recognizing something by seeing only a part of it.
  • Depth perception – judging how far something is.
  • Figure ground perception – focusing on something while blocking out the background/irrelevant images.
  • Form constancy – a shape or form stays the same even when it changes position, or size or is in a different environment.

Examples of Position in Space

Here are some position in space perception examples:

  • I’m sitting on the table.
  • I’m hiding behind the door.
  • I’m inside the tunnel.
  • I’m next to the ball.
Child crawling through a play tunnel

Examples of Spatial Relations

Here are some spatial relations examples:

  • The coffee cup is on the table.
  • The book is next to the clock.
  • Your lunch box is inside your bag.
  • My pencil is to the right of my pen.

Why is Position in Space Important?

Learning to feel their position in space is crucial for a developing child. It builds their directionality, their concept of left and right and their understanding of positional language

It is also crucial in having a strong foundation for reading and writing, in several ways:

  • Telling the difference between letters and numbers that look similar (such as b and d, 6 and 9).
  • Differentiating words that look similar (such as top and pot).
  • Reading words in the correct sequence, from left to right.
  • Preventing reversals of letters when writing.

Children learn about the world by experiencing it through their own body and their own perspective first.

Developing position in space through fun play activities will lead to understanding the spatial relations between objects and other people, and later to seeing the relationship between objects and symbols (drawings, letters, numbers, etc.) on paper. 

Position in Space Activities for Preschoolers

Try these simple ideas and activities during play at home or at school, to develop this concept. 

1. Play Simon Says

The traditional game Simon Says is the perfect way to get kids moving and positioning themselves in relation to their environment.

Give commands that include position words (prepositions) such as:

  • Simon says stand behind someone else.
  • Simon says touch your right knee with your left hand.
  • Simon says high five the person next to you.
  • Simon says climb inside the tunnel.
  • Simon says stand in front of the wall.
  • Simon says sit on top of the blanket.
  • Simon says wave your arms above your head.

Here are more Simon Says ideas.

2. Action Rhymes

Sing action rhymes that teach body awareness, such as: 

  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  • The Hokey Pokey
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It

Here are the lyrics of the above action songs.

The following two rhymes are also great examples:

  • Mrs Sally Walker
  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (teaches over, under and through)

Here are the lyrics for these nursery rhymes with actions.

School children singing a song and touching their heads and shoulders

3. Preposition Songs

These songs are not traditional action rhymes, but rather specifically teach the concept of prepositions.

Here are two great examples:

  • Grover Around from Sesame Street. Watch this funny video:
  • In, On, Under Song by English Vitamin Bubbles:

4. What Am I Doing?

Play a game where one person performs an action with their body and the others have to guess what they are doing, using descriptive language.

Model these types of actions before giving others a turn:

  • Sit under the table.
  • Put a blanket over your head.
  • Turn to face the wall.
  • Stand next to a person in the room.
  • Climb inside a cupboard.
Mom and two young children peaking out from under a blanket on the bed

5. Hide the Toy

Play Hide and Seek with a familiar toy or object. 

Ask the kids to close their eyes. Hide the toy somewhere in the room. The person who finds it must explain, using positional language, where they found it:

  • It’s inside the drawer.
  • It’s behind the desk.

Here are more fun Hide and Seek games to play.

Teddy bear in a drawer

6. Catching and Chasing Games

Catching and chasing games are one of the best natural ways to teach a child where their body is moving in space.

As they run, duck and cut corners, they are learning how much space they take up, how much space they need, if there is enough space to move past someone, etc.

These games are often part of a child’s free play, which children should have time for every day.

Child catching a ball

7. Musical Chairs

Musical chairs is another game that teaches similar skills to a chasing game. Kids need to navigate the space around them to find an empty chair each time the music stops.

Kids who are often clumsy or bump into others a lot may be struggling to perceive their position in space.

8. The Cha Cha Slide Dance

Play this fun song for kids and teach them to listen to the instructions.

It teaches concepts of forward, backward, left, right, crossing the midline as well as performing actions while moving your body in space.

The kids will love this version which shows the movements clearly.

9. Play Follow the Leader

Take kids on a trip outdoors (or indoors) and play Follow the Leader.

Explore different ways to position your body.

Tell them to follow you in a line as you:

  • Crawl under the table.
  • Step onto a chair.
  • Walk on a balancing beam.
  • Crawl through a tunnel.
  • Walk along the wall.
  • Walk around a table.

I hope you’ll enjoy trying some of these activities.

Here are more ideas of sensory stations you can set up to stimulate all seven senses.

Sources:

Total Learning: Developmental Curriculum for the Young Child”, written by Joanne Hendrick.

The Young Child in Context: A psycho-social perspective“, written by Marike de Witt.

Child crawling through tunnel. Text overlay reads "9 activities for teaching position in space".

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