How To Improve Your Spatial Reasoning Skills

If you struggle to pack the trunk of your car, have difficulty parking and can’t for the life of you read a map, then you may be lacking in spatial reasoning skills.

Spatial reasoning is something that develops naturally when you are a child and continues to grow as you get older. It is regarded as one of the most basic reasoning abilities, along with verbal reasoning, logical reasoning and numerical reasoning. Being able to reason spatially means you are able to visualize spatial patterns and mentally manipulate them. For example a hiker with a map and compass uses spatial intelligence to mentally visualize the path, and a painter can instinctively see spatially how to plan the composition of a painting.

Good spatial reasoning skills


Good spatial reasoning skills make it easier to negotiate your way in the world. Without spatial reasoning we wouldn’t be able to comprehend direction, recognize landmarks or effectively use roads and highways, let alone realize distance properties such as “nearest neighbour”.

Everyone thinks spatially to some extent as it is an integral part of everyday living. We are constantly making spatial decisions about where to go and what to do. Loading the dishwasher and locating a restaurant both involve spatial reasoning, as does planning how to arrange furniture in an empty room. Even simply reading a newspaper involves thinking this way because of the paper’s spatial layout. The problem is the world is not always organized to make spatial thinking easy and people can be “spatially disabled”. People lacking in this type of skill find it difficult to adapt to unfamiliar environments and often find certain activities that involve arranging objects a challenge.

When it comes to spatial intelligence the sexes aren’t necessarily equal either. Historically men have always scored more highly than women in tests of spatial skills than for any other intelligence. Various theories to why this might be range from genetic selection from hunting-gathering days to cultural bias towards ‘male’ subjects at school. Whichever the case, there are many technical jobs that require spatial reasoning, such as architecture, science, engineering and mathematics, that women are more than capable of doing, even if they have been traditionally male dominated.


Activities to Improve Spatial Reasoning

Although some people are just inherently better at spatial reasoning than others, there are things you can do to further develop this skill.

A large part of having good spatial reasoning is simply a matter of practice. Getting involved in a hobby or taking a class that places big demands on thinking about and manipulating objects in 3D, and regularly exercises these skills, should help. For example, engine repair, carpentry, metal fabrication or welding, sculpture, cookery, photography and drawing are all activities that use spatial reasoning.

Computer technology can also aid the development of spatial skills at any age. Something like a 3D modelling program is a fun and creative way of learning how to manipulate shapes. For a more serious mental spatial workout, you could enroll in a class in technical drawing or Computer Aided Design (CAD).

New Developments in Brain Games for Kids

There’s also nothing better than computer games if you’re looking for a spatial development tool. Choose any tactical console video games which constantly require the player to correctly arrange his or her characters in a 3D space. Tetris, which requires manipulating and fitting a number of falling shapes together to make a whole, is another good spatial reasoning game.

For other games not requiring a computer try Rubik’s cube (considered the perfect brain training), jigsaw puzzles, or learn strategy games that involve moving pieces, like checkers and chess. These games require you to picture how the board will look after you move your pieces, which in turn exercises your spatial intelligence.

If you like outdoor pursuits then consider taking up orienteering. Running through the woods with a compass and a map is sure fire way to help you develop directional skills, map reading skills and compass reading skills and you’ll also get a good workout to boot.

Reading music and playing an instrument are excellent ways to heighten spatial intelligence too. Studies have even suggested that just listening to Mozart can increase your spatial performance. However, the ‘Mozart Effect’ as it is called is said to only last for 10-15 minutes, and studies are not conclusive.