What is spatial awareness and how can we develop it?

You wake up in the morning and you know that you are lying in your bed. You get up and walk down the hall, smoothly avoiding the radiator on the right wall. A simple and everyday scene like the previous one would not be possible if you did not have spatial awareness.

But let's continue. After breakfast, you get dressed, choose a small backpack that can hold your belongings and leave the house. You head to the bakery, cross the street, turn left and enter the establishment. Not all people have an equally developed spatial perception.

You probably know someone who is good at technical drawing or has a particular talent for packing suitcases in the car before a trip. However, unless there is an injury or illness, we all have enough capacity to function in the environment that surrounds us.

What is consciousness or spatial perception?

Spatial awareness is a complex cognitive skill that allows us to be aware of ourselves and the relative position of objects in space. Therefore, it has to do with the way we perceive, identify and process information from the environment.

Through the data we receive from the senses (especially sight), we create a mental representation of the environment that allows us to navigate through it. Various concepts come into play:

  • Location: what is the location of the objects.
  • Distance: what is your position in relation to me.
  • Proprioception: where am I and how should I proceed to move around the environment.

Packing up is a matter of spatial awareness with some being better than others.

Why is it important to develop spatial perception?

Spatial awareness is essential in daily life, since it allows us to relate and interact with other objects and people in the environment and carry out the most basic and necessary activities.

Among other functions, thanks to spatial perception we can do the following:

  • Identify the size and shape of an object, see it in three dimensions and recognize it from different angles. We know its position in space, we recognize whether it is static or moving and how far away it is.
  • Read and write, understand the structure and grammar of texts.
  • Use mathematical concepts and perform numerical operations.
  • Maintain adequate social distance by relating to other people.
  • Be aware of the body and how to use it to move around the environment.
  • Differentiate left and right, follow a route, play sports, dress up, drive.

Read on: What is dyscalculia and how to treat it?

How does spatial awareness develop?

This spatial awareness is an innate ability, but one that has to be developed throughout growth. It is related to the right cerebral hemisphere and begins to manifest at a very young age.

As the baby interacts with his environment, he begins to build and understand basic concepts, such as shape, size, depth, or location. Thus, your spatial awareness strengthens as you develop different systems:

  • The acquisition of the body scheme is essential. The child begins to be aware of himself, his body and its component parts. The proprioceptive sense allows you to receive information through receptors in the skin, muscles, and joints. For example, by wrapping him up with a blanket, giving him a massage, or reaching for and handling his toys.
  • The vestibular system gives you information about your position (if you are sitting or lying down), as well as if you are moving or moving and at what speed.
  • Once the child knows his body and its different positions and functions, begins to relate it to its external environment through the senses. He receives information about the objects and people around him. Using memory, he begins to plan his movements around the environment.

Find out more: How to stimulate your baby's memory

Examples of spatial perception

To better understand the importance of spatial perception, we show you some everyday examples in which its relevance is revealed:

  • When you visit a new city and want to know the main monuments, spatial perception allows you to interpret the map to reach the destination.
  • If you want to place a travel bag in the airplane compartment and the compartment is almost full, spatial awareness helps you identify the best position to fit.
  • It also allows you to calculate the angles and space when parking or find an object inside the house following instructions like "It's inside a bag, under the table, to the right of the sofa".

Understanding a map would be impossible without spatial perception, which makes it easier for us to navigate in unknown cities and places.

Spatial awareness can be developed

Although spatial awareness is an innate ability, there are different ways to enhance it. For example, doing puzzles, playing chess, or playing video games such as Tetris or Mindcraft.

Similarly, taking a mental tour of the rooms in your house or practicing drawing various objects from different perspectives can be helpful. Like any other skill, the more you practice it, the more it will improve.

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