Spatial Relationship


Spatial relationships are the relationships between the locations of objects to each other in a given space. This also includes the relationship between your child’s own location and objects in a given space.


Simone is playing ball in the living room, and she accidentally kicks the ball across the room into the kitchen. The ball rolls under the kitchen chair. Simone runs over to the chair, stops, and then looks at the ball. She reaches her hand out to try and get the ball, but she cannot reach it. Simone then realizes that in order to get to the ball she will need to bend down and crawl under the chair. As Simone bends down and begins to crawl she still does not feel confident that she will be able to crawl under the chair and reach the ball, so she stands up, pushes the chair over, and then bends down again on the floor. On this second try, Simone is now able to reach the ball because she has moved an obstructing object in the space and can now access the object she seeks.


When Simone stops to think, this demonstrates that she is using her problem-solving skills to help her understand the spatial relationship between her size and her ability to reach the ball (object) under the chair.

Spatial relationships can be explained using puzzles. For example, your child is working on a four-piece chunky shaped puzzle, and in order for the puzzle to fit together your child has to move around one puzzle piece to see how it fits next to another. Your child is moving the piece and changing its location within the given space that is the puzzle board. Your child will use trial and error to discover how things move and fit.

Toddlers learn about spatial relationships in a variety of ways, such as by spending time exploring toys in their environment. When playing with a ball, your child will see how the ball can roll into places that are small and that may make it difficult for her to reach with her hands. This is your child learning the relationship between her, an object (the ball), and the space around her.

There are so many simple things you can do to support your child’s spatial development, such as giving her a ball to explore. As your baby plays with her blocks or watches you roll a ball to her, she is learning about spatial relationships. You can also ask your child to point to her nose, and then follow up by saying, “Your nose is on your face,” and “Your nose is on the front of your head,” and “Your nose is above your lips.” Using words like on and above supports your child’s use of spatial language. Some other examples of spatial language words you can use are under, over, on top, and next to.

For example, give your child opportunities to climb and jump so she’ll learn how she can move up and down stairs. Set up an obstacle course using sheets and pillows; this will allow her to go over, under, around, and through different objects, and help her label how she is moving. Say, “You went under the table, and now you are going around the chair.”

As your child continues to develop language skills, make sure to use spatial language words as part of your daily routine. Supporting your child’s understanding of spatial relationships will help your child be successful in a number of areas such as reading and math, as well as aid her in following directions.