Direction - Concepts of geography or location begin early in life. By age 2, kids are able to distinguish between objects that are near and can be grasped, and those that are farther away. They can notice features of their immediate surroundings, such as the bedroom or yard.
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The idea of direction is a difficult concept. Kids develop the concept of geography or direction through experiences such as climbing, jumping, running, and rolling around. Kids need to physically experience themselves in space. First, children need to develop body awareness; to understand where their body is in a room, including its size and level (upright, crawling or stooping, or on the floor); how the body's different parts are put together with wriggling wrists and wobbling ankles, and how to move in directions like forward, backward, or sideways. When they know how their body moves, they will have the basis for learning precise directions and locations later in life. The more opportunities kids have to run and move about, the greater their ability to keep track of position and location.
Kids with disabilities have a special need to experience geography - space, direction, and location. Even when using a wheelchair, kids can play simple dancing games that help them orient themselves in space. They can take field trips into the community and use geography maps to follow directions.
Kids Ages 2-3
- Give toddlers a lot of opportunities to run about and explore their environment.
- Babies love to play "So Big." When you ask them how big they are they raise their hands over their heads and everyone says, "So Big." Now that they are older, ask toddlers to make themselves very tall or very small by standing on tip toes, or stooping down.
- Have toddlers play at moving in different directions, like backward, forward, or sideways. A simple game to play is "Mother, May I." To play, stand at the opposite end of a room from your children. Take turns having them ask, "Mother, may I". . . jump two steps. . . or hop quickly. . . or take one big step. After you say, "Yes, you may," they take the requested steps. The first to reach you is the winner.
- Give toddlers discarded cardboard boxes to climb in and out of, get under, put things in, and play with. Talk about what they are doing: "Where are you? Oh, you are under the box!" Parents can participate too. "Daddy's feet are in the box!"
- Let your toddler play with pots and pans or plastic kitchen containers, fitting them together and putting them away. They will become familiar with shapes and sizes, as well as concepts like in and on.
- Children need to understand positional words. You can teach these by involving them in household tasks. Teach children a lot of positional words like above and below in a natural way when you talk with them or give them directions. When picking up toys to put away say, "Please put your toys into the yellow basket" or "Put the green washcloth into the drawer." Words that describe features such as color, size, and shape are also important.
- When looking through books, point out where objects are, like a teddy bear sitting on the bed.