Spatial skills for preschoolers is a hot topic these days, ever since recent research linked strong spatial skills to success in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. More and more educators are stressing the importance of building these skills and trying to engage little ones early to increase their awareness and interest.
One great way to do that? Books, of course! Here are a few books to help your budding engineer, astronaut or scientist grasp these important skills:
1. 'Katy and the Big Snow'
First published in 1943 and authored and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton, “Katy and the Big Snow” tells the story of a snowplow named Katy who saves the city of Geopolis from a perilous blizzard by slowly and methodically plowing the town’s streets. The illustrations show each section of the city getting back to normal once Katy plows through. Kids can learn north, south, east and west as Katy trudges along. One two-page spread shows Katy in the upper right corner of an otherwise all-white page — just one illustration in an imaginative, spatially-engaging story.
2. 'Big Bug'
Written by Henry Cole, “Big Bug” illustrates how size is a relative thing. On the first two pages, we see a ladybug so large it fills up the entire two-page spread. On the next page, we see the ladybug is now small in relation to the big leaf on which it sits. As the book progresses, each following page shows what was large is now considered small in comparison to something else.
3. 'Harold and the Purple Crayon'
Simple illustrations continue to pique children’s curiosity and imagination in this classic by Crockett Johnson. Using only his purple crayon, Harold draws himself into an ocean, a boat, in a forest, in a city with skyscrapers full of windows and finally back in his own bed. Harold shows how ordinary lines and shapes can create the most wondrous creations.
4. 'Lucy in the City'
Julie Dillemuth, a spatial cognition geographer (she studies how people think about space), sought to write a children’s book that would lay the foundation for spatial thinking. Lucy, the raccoon at the center of her story, uses three spatial strategies to find her way home — retracing her steps, interpreting a map and using awareness of her surroundings.
5. 'The Grouchy Ladybug'
“The Grouchy Ladybug” tells the tale of a small but angry ladybug, who doesn’t have proper manners and is looking for a fight, no matter how big his opponent. The book explores the concept of time, as the ladybug meets a different animal at each hour of the day. It also explores the concept of relative size, as with each turn of the page, the ladybug meets an increasingly larger animal, until it meets a whale. It’s an Eric Carle classic with a poignant message.
Beyond books, there’s more you can to do build your kid’s spatial skills. “Expose them to blocks and other building toys, such as Legos, Bristle Blocks and Tinkertoys daily. Encourage their play by discussing their structures with them. Be sure that you use spatial-relation words as often as you can to help them describe their buildings,” suggests Ronni Graf, assistant director at the Beth El Early Learning Center in Boca Raton, Florida. “Building train tracks is a favorite activity of many children that really helps build spatial awareness. Also, let them go outside and play. Jumping over puddles, playing with balls, maneuvering over and around playground equipment and pretty much anything else you can think of being done outside really help children develop their sense of their bodies in space.”
All book photos: Amazon.com