Architects Are Made, Not Born

January 27th, 2014

Spatial judgment, or spatial intelligence, is the ability to visualize abstract concepts in the mind, specifically in regard to proximity, direction, and orientation. Think of it as being able to visualize how two objects either match or don’t match each other when positioned differently.

OK, so what?

As written by the eminent psychologist Howard Gardener, there are nine main areas of intelligence:

1. Musical–Rhythmic,
2. Visual–Spatial
3. Verbal–Linguistic
4. Logical–Mathematical
5. Bodily–Kinesthetic
6. Interpersonal
7. Intrapersonal
8. Naturalistic
9. Existential

Nurturing your children in any one or combination of these areas can give them an excellent chance at success in their adult lives. For instance, if you hone in on your child’s spatial aptitude and nurture it well, there is a great chance that your child will become an engineer, architect, or even an artist. Granted, this is an oversimplified conclusion, but the notion speaks to how you can best help your children become all that they can be.

Many of these areas of intelligence are covered in school, but spatial intelligence is usually not. That’s why it’s important to consider it as part of your child’s after-school education, especially since recent research shows that spacial intelligence can be taught.

Spatial intelligence is best developed interactively, and interactivity is most effective when it’s fun. There are many fun games to play with your children to help them consciously visualize things. Fortunately, these games also exercise the areas of the brain that will govern more complex spatial matters later in life. Here are a few great examples of such activities.

Man in the Mirror

It sounds as simple as it is, and you can start utilizing this activity this as soon as you notice your children imitating you! Position yourself in front of your child and instruct your little one to imitate your movements. Try to get him to notice the difference between left and right and that those directions are reversed in a reflection. For example, if your child moves his left arm when you move your right one, turn around and show him the reverse.

Not so Puzzling

Tilted heart made of lots of jigsaw puzzle piecesPhoto by Horia Varlan

Jigsaw puzzles address spatial intelligence in a number of ways. Children have to visualize how the images they are building come together. In addition, throughout the process, children are constantly engaging and negotiating the pieces against each other. In the beginning, they’ll physically try each piece to see if it will or will not fit. As they continue, they won’t need to physically test each piece; they’ll be able to see whether it may fit or not.

Teaching Strategy

chess_piecesPhoto by Tristan Martin

As your children get older, start teaching them games like Checkers and Chess. It’s probably best to start with Checkers as it is easier to understand, but regardless of which game you choose, the purpose is the same. You want your children to visualize how the pieces are able to move around the game board. Encourage them to try to predict where you will move next. When they start to see a few moves ahead, they’ll begin mastering more than just the game.

For more on the nine areas of intelligence, read the 1983 publication Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardener.

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