5 Ways to Build Kids’ Spatial Skills (and Support Their STEM Success) | Deborah Farmer Kris | 4 Min Read

In February 2020, I bought a daybed for my eight-year-old daughter. When it finally arrived that April, hiring someone to do in-home assembly simply wasn’t an option. 

“Hey, do you want to do something awesomely hard with me?” I asked her. We unpackaged dozens of screws, dowels, slats — and an unfortunate set of picture-only instructions.

And as we spent hours fitting the pieces together, I thought about something spatial cognition expert Julie Dillemuth told me years ago: “We don’t really think about our spatial skills until we have to assemble a bookcase from IKEA.”  

As adults, we use spatial skills every day without much reflection: loading the dishwasher, replacing batteries, driving to the store, merging into traffic, or even shooting some hoops.

But these aren’t skills we are born with — and that’s good news for our kids.  Engineering professor Sheryl Sorby once told me,  “A lot of people believe that spatial intelligence is a fixed quantity — that you either have good spatial skills or you don’t — but that’s simply not true.” 

Why Do Kids Need Spatial Reasoning Skills?

It turns out that “spatial skills strongly predict who will go into STEM fields.”…

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Deborah Farmer Kris

A writer, teacher, parent, and child development expert, Deborah Farmer Kris writes regularly for PBS KIDS for Parents and NPR’s MindShift; her work has been featured several times in The Washington Post; and she is the author of the All the Time picture book series (coming out in 2022) focused on social-emotional growth. A popular speaker, Deborah has a B.A. in English, a B.S. in Education, and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology. Mostly, she loves finding and sharing nuggets of practical wisdom that can help kids and families thrive — including her own. You can follow her on Twitter @dfkris, contact her at [email protected], or visit her website: Parenthood365 (https://www.parenthood365.com/)