As a parent, it seems that we're constantly learning new things when it comes to raising our kids.
Take, for example, the year my son began studying for standardized tests (SAT, ACT, etc).
He attended a review session at school to sit for a practice test which would help him to learn more about the areas he would need to review. He's a big Math kid but not so crazy about English & grammar, so we knew those would be one area of focus.
Well in addition to the English areas, the practice test also recommended studying problems related to "spatial visualization".
Now I knew what it meant and had read books about spatial intelligence (the ability to transfer a 2-dimensional or 3-dimensional object in your mind's eye) but I had NO IDEA you could do things to improve this skill -- I really just thought that some people were "born with it and other's weren't" so to say.
I started to read about the various ways kids can strengthen their spatial reasoning skills and quickly found out that activities such as building with blocks, LEGO activities and puzzles help to improve spatial intelligence beginning in the preschool years and through the teenage years!
Yep, encourage kids to play, build and create and you're making them smarter (but that's something so many of us parents know already ;)
So today we're going to share a super simple 'brain game' that can help kids of all ages to improve their spatial reasoning and visualization -- and I guarantee you have all the items you need right at home!
Brain Games for Kids: Puzzle Activities
So how do you know if you have strong spatial intelligence?
A visit to the grocery store can reveal who has good spatial abilities when packing your groceries.
Anyone else think they should test grocery store baggers BEFORE putting them on the line to pack tomatoes, eggs and other items that you cringe at when unpacking at home?!
Or how about packing a car for a trip?
My husband will tell you one of the reasons he married me is my ability to pack a car when we go on vacation. Seriously, I can fit half our house in the car and he'll still have room to see out the rear window :)
Needless to say, I have 'job security' because he hates packing anything!
And when doing puzzles, you'll notice that some people are just able to quickly see which pieces should fit without even trying to connect them -- they are using their mind's eye and visualizing the puzzle before completing it.
I know what you might be thinking -- "My kids don't really enjoy puzzles".
I hear you on that one -- my kids have never been crazy over puzzles!
A puzzle usually means you have to sit and try to fit the pieces; they're more of the 'on-the-go' type kids. But they do have some favorite puzzles that as they say "aren't boring" :) I'll share the ones we love below along with affiliate links so you can learn about each one.
Brain Game Activity: The 'Puzzle' puzzle
For this activity, all you'll need are a few puzzle pieces, a sheet of paper and a pencil. Puzzles of any size will do -- if you have large pieces, try using a sheet of construction paper and trace them with chalk so it will show up nicely.
To set up the activity, choose 6 puzzle pieces and trace their shape on a piece of paper (don't let the kids watch this part!)
Then line the puzzle pieces up at the top of the paper and number each one.
To make the activity a little easier, position the pieces in the same direction you traced them.
To make it more difficult, turn the pieces before you number them.
Ok, this is a REALLY important step -- have your child number each of the tracings with the piece that they think fits that shape WITHOUT picking up the piece!
If they hold the puzzle pieces or turn them, that's not really using their 'mind's eye' so the activity won't help them to improve their spatial reasoning skills.
Once each outline is numbered, now have them see if the pieces match!
So how did they do?
I was impressed with my daughter - she matched all 6 pieces so next time I'm going to use 8 or 10 of them ;)
This is an easy activity that can be done over and over -- use puzzle pieces or other shaped items that are easily traced. It's also something you can do at home, in the car or on vacation -- very portable.
Toys that Improve Spatial Intelligence
As I mentioned earlier, there are quite a few toys that help kids to practice and improve their spatial reasoning skills.
Choose games and toys that include 3D shapes and objects, especially those that need to be manipulated and moved while playing.
Here are a few favorites that we've had in the house and have enjoyed over the years:
Although our kids never enjoyed sitting still to do puzzles, they really LOVE lying down to do these giant size puzzles -- especially the Melissa & Doug Under The Sea and the Melissa & Doug Children of the World Floor Puzzles! I think it was the non-fiction nature of the puzzle that drew them in to complete it.
Another great option are 3D puzzles -- we loved the Ravensburger 3D The Earth Puzzleball and use it as a globe for our geography activities. And they've always enjoyed a variety of 3D Wood Puzzles too.
Another great 'puzzle' activity for spatial reasoning is the classic Rubik's Cube Game .
MORE FUN WAYS TO LEARN
Explore these other fun puzzle activities from our awesome blogging buddies!
Shape Matching Puzzle Cards from Life Over C's
Stamping Shapes in Kinetic Sand from Still Playing School
Rainbow My Name Puzzles from Powerful Mothering
Brain Games for Kids: The 'Puzzle' puzzle from Edventures with Kids
Hillarious Number Line Game (using foam number puzzles) from Teach Me Mommy
Missing Number Puzzle from Adventures of Adam
Simple Puzzle Sensory Bin from School Time Snippets
Letter Recognition Sensory Bin from This Outnumbered Mama
In-Hand Manipulation Letter Puzzle Activity from Sugar Aunts