Positive Parenting: Why spatial skills matter

Positive Parenting: Why spatial skills matter

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The words you use during playtime with your baby and toddler do matter.

In today's positive parenting, language that helps kids understand the relationships between objects may help them develop the skills they need for science, technology, engineering and math.

For 3-year old Ari Sorkin, the bigger, the better. Ari takes the lead when they play, but mom Janet guides the conversation.

“If he says he wants something to be big, I’ll ask him to specify,” Janet said. “Do you want it to be tall or do you want it wide?”

Developmental psychologist Susan Levine and her colleagues studied 58 pairs of parents and kids ages 1 to 5.

Researchers measured spatial words, words that describe objects and the relationships between them. From age one, parents used more spatial words with boys.

"The first time we detected differences in spatial thinking of these kids is about 4-and-a-half years of age,” Levine said.

At that age, researchers found boys produced more spatial words than girls. They also had stronger spatial skills.

Levine says parents should make sure boys and girls have access to toys for spatial play, things like building blocks, Legos and puzzles.

Use spatial language like “over” and “under.” Point out shapes, and objects that are different sizes.

"These kinds of findings that we are uncovering early in life are important for changing parent behaviors and ultimately for diversifying the STEM pipeline,” Levine said.

It’s a little conversation that could go a long way.

Levine and first author Shannon Pruden say they aren’t sure why parents in the study used more spatial words with boys but say stereotypes about certain games and activities being more “boyish” might have played a part.

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