Travel helps develop kids’ spatial awareness

Why travel with your kids? Because travel helps develop kids spatial awareness and helps them understand where they are in the world, writes Renee Krosch.

Understanding who you are in the world is very important.

But understanding where you are in the world is equally so.

Travel can give even a little person a whole new perspective on where they are in proximity to others. Not only where they are on the world map, but where they are in relation to their hometown.

Learning how a big city moves, how people from different cultures relate to one another, and observing the social behaviour of others is of a great benefit.

Imagine the changes a child experiences navigating through spaces like London’s Heathrow airport, standing on a crowded train at peak hour in a city like Shanghai, or at the other extreme driving across the Nullarbor Plain, with not a soul in sight.

Suzanne Latham is a kindergarten teacher at the International Grammar School in Sydney. She believes that children can definitely learn spatial awareness and that its understanding is vital to a child’s social development.

“Yes, I think it’s a learnt thing. I think it’s a socially constructed thing. Some children just get it, but some need more explicit guidelines about what’s appropriate and what’s not.’

She explains that you have to teach children about personal space, what’s acceptable, what’s not, what’s expected of them in a social or school environment and that it may be different to home.

At her school, she teaches a very simple saying MO-HO-FO which stands for:

Mouth Off (not saying rude words or shouting at others)

Hands Off (arms not too close to others)

Feet Off (not standing too close to others)

It’s a quick mental saying to remind children of other people’s personal space and what’s expected of them as citizens of the school.

Travelling to new places shows a child how different cultures observe such practices, how big cities compare to small towns, but can small children really understand and process the difference?

“They would definitely see the difference,” she says. “If they went to another culture they might have more empathy and understanding in dealing with that culture (having learnt about their own personal space) but they might experience frustration because it’s not the same as theirs.

“But it’s a great learning experience to have that chat with your child about the difference,” she says. “And gaining an understanding of why there is that difference.

“We live in a global world now,” she says. “We need to understand these differences from a young age.”

Listen to the full interview here:

Renee Krosch is a mother of two and producer at 702 ABC Sydney.