All About Space and Place

The couch is in front of the window. The cat is on top of the couch. There are plants next to and behind the couch.

What Is Space and Place Knowledge?

Space and place knowledge includes understanding:

  • Where things are. Near or far? Above or below other objects? Right or left?
  • How to move around the world to get from one place to another.

Why Is Learning About Space and Place Important?

Thinking about spaces and places helps us every day as we:

  • Plan the best route to school.
  • Remember where we left our keys or backpack.
  • Use a map to get to a new place.

What Do Children Need to Know About Space and Places?

  • Spatial words that describe positions, like between, behind, on top.
  • How to use maps and diagrams, like reading a map to get to a friend’s home.
  • How objects or scenes look from different places. “What would you see if you moved to the other side of the room?” This is called perspective taking.

How Can We Help Children Learn About Spaces and Places?

Use words to describe where objects are located when cleaning up or playing. Hands-on activities, like building with blocks or household objects (such as cans and boxes) and putting together puzzles, can also support learning about space.

Babies and Toddlers

  • Talk about spaces and places in storybook pictures. “That frog is on top of the log. Look at the hippo hiding behind the tree!”
  • Describe spaces and places when playing. As you wiggle with your baby, say, “Baby is up, baby is down, baby is turning round and round.”
  • Use household materials to explore spaces and places. Cups and boxes can fit together or be taken apart. “Look at how the little cup fits inside the bigger cup. ”

Preschoolers and Older Children

  • Play guessing games using space and place words. “Is it inside the cabinet? Is it next to the chair?” Take turns guessing and providing clues!
  • Get active with space. On the playground, say, “Go down the slide, then through the tunnel, and over the balance beam.” At home, say, “Walk between the chairs, then under the table.”
  • Use language about places. When playing games like Simon Says or Hokey Pokey, you might say, “Lift your hands high, kneel down low” or “Put your right hand in, put your right hand out.”
  • Make it fun! Hide an object in the room and create a simple treasure map to help children find it. Give clues such as, “Try looking lower” or “You’re getting closer!”