Young children who learn more spatial terms at home increase their spatial thinking scores

Basic spatial skills lead to learning more complex science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. As with literacy, setting a child up for success in these areas begins early and parents can significantly impact a child’s development.

Researchers at the University of Chicago studied the connection between a parent’s use of spatial terms in everyday family situations, children’s own use of spatial terms, and children’s later spatial abilities. The team followed 52 parent-child pairs as they interacted at home together. They videotaped the pairs for 90-minute sessions every four months when the children were between the ages of 14 and 46 months. On average, parents used 167 words related to spatial concepts throughout the 13.5 hours of recorded time. Children used 74 spatial related words.

When the children reached four-and-a-half years old, the team assessed how well they mentally rotated objects, copied block designs, and did spatial analogies.

Key findings:

  • Children who were exposed to more spatial terms during everyday activities performed better than those with less exposure.
  • Every 45 additional spatial terms that a child used at home correlated with a 23 percent increase in their scores on the spatial analogies task and a 15 percent increase on the mental rotation task.

At ABC Music & Me, we know a parent is a child’s first and best teacher, which is why we provide materials for families to use together at home in conjunction with the classroom learning. To discover more about how ABC Music & Me can be used in your school, email us at

Additional information on the research cited about, can be found at the Developmental Science Journal.


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