While children learn most of their basic shapes and sizes in primary school, a study shows that learning spatial terms early from parents or caregivers can boost kids’ understanding of science, technology, engineering, and math later on.

According to the researchers from the University of Chicago, children who are able to hear and repeat around 45 spatial terms--such as circle or triangle and tall or short--have a 23 percent lead advantage over their peers in a non-verbal assessment of spatial thinking. "Our results suggest that children’s talk about space early in development is a significant predictor of their later spatial thinking," said Susane Levine, a psychologist at the university and the co-author of the study.

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Videotaping 52 children between ages 14 months and 46 months, the researchers observed how the caregivers--most of them mothers--interacted with the kids and how often spatial concepts were taught. Each session lasted for 90 minutes and was conducted at four-month intervals. After collating data from 13.5 hours' worth of material, the authors found out that parents use an average of 167 words to describe spatial matters. However, there is a great divide between the subjects as some only use five spatial words while others introduced as many as 525 spatial words.

When the children turned four and a half years old, the researchers paid their young participants another visit. This time, they assessed the kids on their ability to mentally rotate objects, copy block designs, and understand spatial analogies. Their theory appeared to be consistent as those who were exposed to more spatial terms at a young age performed better than those who had minimal spatial lessons.


Based on their results, the researchers believe that the attention given to spatial concepts at a young age has helped the children gain an easier understanding of spatial information thus making it almost natural for them to solve spatial problems.

If your kids are already in school and you need advice for helping them with their studies, check out these articles for tips:

(Photo by anissat via sxc.hu)

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