Headstart for Life

Art and Visual Spatial Intelligence

In today’s post, we look at the link between Art and “Visual Spatial thinking”.

Visual Spatial thinking “finds meaning in the shape, size, orientation, location, direction or trajectory, of objects,” and their relative positions. It also “uses the properties of space as a vehicle for structuring problems, for finding answers, and for expressing solutions.”

Visual Spatial Intelligence can be seen in the imaginative play of children involving pretending to make themselves invisible or imagining themselves to be on a great journey to magical times and places. We use this intelligence when we draw pictures to express our thoughts and feelings, or when we decorate a room to create a certain mood. We use it when we use a map successfully to get someplace we want to go. It is also the mode of thought we use to imagine different visual perspectives. Are two given shapes different? Or are they identical and merely oriented differently?


Photo credit: www.lovekids.com.sg


Researchers have elaborately discussed visual-spatial thinking and here is how visual-spatial learners are differentiated from everyone else (also dubbed as  “auditory-sequential learners”).

Auditory-Sequential Thinkers Visual-Spatial Thinkers
Thinks primarily in words Thinks primarily in pictures
Has auditory strengths Has visual strengths
Relates well to time Relates well to space
Is a step-by-step learner Is a whole-part learner
Learns by trial and error Learns concepts all at once
Progresses sequentially from easy to difficult material Learns complex concepts easily and struggles with “easy” skills
Is an analytical thinker Is a good synthesizer
Attends well to details Sees the big picture, may miss details
Follows oral directions well Reads maps well
Does well at arithmetic Is better at math reasoning than computation
Learns phonics easily Learns whole words easily
Can sound out spelling words Must visualize words to spell them
Can write quickly and neatly Prefers keyboarding to writing
Is well-organized Creates unique methods of organization
Can show steps of work easily Arrives at correct solutions intuitively
Excels at rote memorization Learns best by seeing relationships
Has good auditory short-term memory Has good long-term visual memory
May need some repetition to reinforce learning Learns concepts permanently; is turned off by drill and repetition
Learns well from instructions Develops own methods of problem solving
Learns in spite of emotional reactions Is very sensitive to teachers’ attitudes
Is comfortable with one right answer Generates unusual/multiple solutions to problems
Develops fairly evenly Develops quite asynchronously
Usually maintains high grades May have very uneven grades
Enjoys algebra and chemistry Enjoys geometry and physics
Learns languages in class Masters other languages through immersion
Is academically talented Is creatively, mechanically, emotionally, or technologically gifted
Is an early bloomer Is a late bloomer

Can we improve a child’s spatial thinking skills?

Experiments suggest that we can. Here are some art projects we can resort to.

 1. 3-D Art Projects. 

Thomas Edison—famous for developing the light bulb and more than 1,000 patents—was fascinated with mechanical objects at an early age.  He once said: “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”  He wasn’t joking. According to an 1887 news article, his lab was stocked with chemicals, screws, needles, cords, wires, hair, silk, cocoons, hoofs, shark’s teeth, deer horns, cork, resin, varnish and oil, ostrich feathers, amber, rubber, ores, minerals, and numerous other things. So, pulling out things from the recycle bin, you and your child can have a lot of fun putting together 3-dimensional projects. You can make castles, robots, dinosaurs, machines, costumes and more. Clay and Play-Doh are other options for 3-D creations.


Photo credit: www.pinterest.com


Photo credit: www.pinterest.com


Photo credit: www.pinterest.com

2. Real Art.

Kids can be guided to paint a picture by looking at their surroundings. They can be taken to a garden or a park and asked to sketch  or paint whatever they see in their mind. They may produce detailed spontaneous drawings in perspective of favorite objects such as buildings or animals from various vantage points.Hence,it enhances their understanding of the natural spaces around them.


Photo credit: artprojectsforkids.org


Photo credit: artprojectsforkids.org

3. Collage Art Projects. 

The worcollage comes from the French verb coller, which means “to glue.” Making collages not only improves visual spatial intelligence, but also introduces kids to a whole lot of media, textures, patterns, estimating , comparing, fine motor skills  and better hand-eye coordination.


Photo credit: artprojectsforkids.org


Photo credit: www.mrsbrownart.com

4.  Mosaic Art. 

Mosaic art is the art of putting together or assembling of small pieces of paper, tiles, marble, stones, etc. It helps in improving spatial and visual organisation (basics of geometry).


Photo credit: Buggyandbuddy.com/pasta mosaic


Photo credit: http://www.kidactivities.net/seed mosaic

In addition to these art projects, there are many more ways to improve the visual-spatial intelligence in kids, such as playing construction games like Legos or Mega Bloks, playing with tangrams and jigsaw puzzles, games that involve visual or mental rotation of objects and shapes.

So what are you waiting for ? Get set and embark on a journey to try and explore these strategies and discover the strength of your ‘Visual – Spatial Thinkers’!







KQED News / Mindshift by Jonathan Wai

"All the information on this site is for educational purposes only and does not replace the assessment and intervention of a registered speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist or any other medical or education professional."

About Kokila

Kokila has been working with children with learning difficulties for the last 2 years. She strongly believes that early intervention, teamwork, consistency and thinking "+1" from the current level are the most effective elements that translate into visible progress shown by children with learning difficulties.

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