Without access to schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, parents find themselves looking for ways to support their child’s learning at home and to find creative and engaging activities. Magination Press book, Lucy in the City: A Story About Developing Spatial Thinking Skills by Julie Dillemuth PhD, offers both! This adapted excerpt from the Lucy in the City explains some different kinds of spatial thinking and offers fun ways for kids to practice them. Think about a trip you have made often—perhaps to your child’s school, your workplace, or a store. How did you get there? You probably have some sort of mental picture of the route you took and what you saw along the way. When we navigate, we search our “mental map” of an area to figure out where to go. Young children are just starting to develop this ability, as well as other important spatial thinking skills. Exposure to spatial concepts can help foster a young child’s development of spatial thinking skills, and practice can help improve these skills at any age! Spatial thinking is how we think about and understand the world around us, and concepts of space for problem solving. Thinking analytically about spatial relationships is something adults do every day—by navigating somewhere, putting dishes away in a kitchen cabinet, or playing sports, for example. Grown-ups often take these skills for granted because we use them every day, but young children need to develop these skills. How Lucy in the City can help: Lucy in the City tells the story of a raccoon who, distracted by a jar of peanut butter, becomes separated from her family one night and must figure out how to find her way home. The story explores three fundamental spatial themes: Retracing one’s steps. In the story, Lucy discovers how to retrace her steps when she needs to find her way home. Kids might use this strategy to find a toy or other object they lost somewhere in the house. Try this with your child at home. Hide an object in the house. Then have your child walk with you as you direct them from where they are to where they can find the object. Think out loud, describing your movements and things in your home that can be landmarks. Use spatial language such as on, above, below, near, next to, and between.“First we need to walk across your bedroom to the door. Then we need to go down the hall to the kitchen. Let’s look in the cabinet next to the oven. There’s the toy! It’s on the shelf above the pots and pans!” If your child is old enough, have them hide an object and describe to you how to find it. This exercises your child’s spatial memory (remembering where things are) and develops their spatial language vocabulary. Interpreting a map. What makes a map such a powerful tool is that you can see a larger area than what you see from the ground. Looking at a map adds to your mentalRead More
About Julie Dillemuth, PhDJulie Dillemuth, PhD, is a spatial cognition geographer and children's writer. She is passionate about writing picture books for children that help develop spatial thinking skills. Her stories have appeared in Highlights for Children and Odyssey magazines. She is also the author of Lucy in the City and Mapping My Day.
Have you ever had to find your way home? When Lucy gets distracted by a delicious jar of peanut butter, she gets separated from her family. With the help of an owl, and his birds-eye-view, Lucy uses her senses to find her way back to her family's cozy den. Hear author, Julie Dillemuth, PhD, read Lucy in the City aloud! For more information and fun activities to help your child learn spatial thinking skills, check out this blog post.Read More
We use spatial thinking every day. When we pack a backpack so that everything fits, or use words like “on,” “under,” or “next to,” which describe how things are related to each other, we’re thinking spatially. Children start developing their spatial thinking skills at an early age, and like any skill, it takes practice. When you combine early orienting and mapping skills with adventures outdoors, you’ll build your child’s spatial thinking skills and also foster their curiosity about exploration and discovery. Magination Press’s Camilla, Cartographer, by Julie Dillemuth,PhD, provides an introduction to spatial thinking and problem solving. Camilla uses spatial thinking skills as she explores maps and her forest. The note to parents and caregivers provides specific activities to develop spatial thinking skills and foster an interest in exploration and discovery. Orienting and Navigating With a Compass Camilla and her friend, Parsley, use a compass to find their way to the creek when snow covers the path they know and all the familiar landmarks. You can help your child understand the cardinal directions, north, south, east, and west, by using a map and a compass to navigate to a destination in your neighborhood. Show your child how a compass will point to the north. Show your child where they are on the map, which direction is north on the map, and where your destination (the park, library, or school for example) is located. Let your child take the lead navigating. Mistakes along the way are okay! Map Making A cartographer is someone who makes maps. Maps are drawings that show relationships of things in space, and let us compare things about places across space or time. Involving your child in reading, making, and using maps helps them develop their spatial thinking skills, and can inspire them to explore and discover. Help your child create a map of a large area with interesting features, such as a park or playground. Show your child how to use a compass to orient yourselves facing north. Sit in a place with a good view of the area you are going to map, facing north. In one corner of a sheet of paper, have your child draw a compass rose and consult the compass to label it N, S,E, and W. Now, have your child start drawing the map--paths, trees, grass, playground equipment, etc. Talk about the cardinal directions as she draws features. When the map is complete, you can have fun with your map by one of you drawing a path for the other person to follow, or hiding an object for the other person to find and giving hints by pointing to where it is on the map. Your child may have other ideas about how to use the map--follow their lead! Exploration and Discovery It’s important for kids to realize that even though it may seem like everything has already been discovered, and that grown-ups have all the answers, there is still so much we don’t know. Remind kids that thereRead More