When I think of visual-spatial skills, I am reminded of the aptitude test I took in high school, where I had to analyze different shapes and figure out what they would look like if they were turned in different directions. At that time, I did not give much thought to it. But over the years, I have come to realize that visual-spatial skills are increasingly important in today’s world.
Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences
Visual-spatial intelligence is one of Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences. His theory expands what we think of as intelligence. Instead of just academic intelligence or book smarts, Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences allows people to excel in other areas. Gardner’s multiple intelligences include musical, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic, existential, and visual-spatial.
Visual-spatial intelligence is the ability to visualize objects’ positions, shapes, movements, and their relationships to other objects. Whenever I try to wrap my head around visual-spatial intelligence, two things come to mind. The first is the high school aptitude test I took, where I had to mentally flip objects around and move them to understand the test questions. The other is Ikea furniture. Putting together Ikea furniture has always been a test of my visual-spatial intelligence. My husband was recently building an armoire, and I came downstairs to see that he had placed one of the shelves upside-down. Visual-spatial intelligence is being able to imagine how objects will look when they are moved and how that will change their relationship to other objects.
How to Improve Your Visual-Spatial Skills
If you think that visual-spatial skills are innate, you are wrong. Carol Dweck’s mindset theory is a great way to understand that our skills and abilities are malleable. We can improve with dedication and practice over time. To improve your visual-spatial skills, there are exercises and activities that you can do each day.
1. Move Your Body
One of the ways to improve your visual-spatial skills is to be one of those moving objects. Visual-spatial intelligence includes being able to visualize your body’s relationship to other objects in space. Activities that require this kind of bodily intelligence, such as dance and martial arts, can beef up your visual-spatial skills. While you are outside taking a walk, you can also pay attention to objects’ shapes, sizes, and relationships to other objects.
2. Paint a Pretty Little Painting
Visual arts can also help improve your visual-spatial skills. Bob Ross’s paintings have objects with clear relationships to other objects. The mountains were in the background, and the trees were in front of the mountains. Painting your own happy little trees is a great way to enhance your visual-spatial skills. You can even find Bob Ross’s tutorials on YouTube if you want to learn from the master himself.
3. Ditch the GPS
Turning off the GPS on your phone and finding yourself a map is a great way to force your brain to boost its visual-spatial skills. Studying maps and figuring out how to get from point A to point B helps improve your ability to visualize objects and their relationships to other objects.
4. Play Video Games
Video games, such as Tetris or Snood, are another way to work your visual-spatial skills. These games are a great way to visualize objects’ shapes, sizes, and relationships to other objects. They are also a great way to visualize how objects will affect other objects when they move through space.
5. Try 3D Puzzles
Building 3D puzzles, such as the 3D Empire State Building puzzle, is a great way to boost your visual-spatial skills. Even a regular puzzle is fine to practice your visual-spatial skills since you have to imagine what the pieces will look like when they are flipped and turned.
6. Bust Out the Brain Teasers
Brain teasers, such as trying to figure out which shape comes next to make a pattern or what this shape would look like if inverted or rotated, are a ton of fun for children and adults. These teasers are also great for visual-spatial skill-building.
7. Build Stuff
Building structures or contraptions that require visual-spatial skills and problem-solving is a fantastic way to improve your skills. For example, participating in competitions that require designing and building a lightweight yet strong structure out of balsa wood demands intense visual-spatial skills.
Reading any book that involves objects moving through space helps improve your visual-spatial skills. Unlike films or TV shows, you have to picture the action in your mind, which is what visual-spatial skills are all about.
9. Pick Up an Instrument and Play
Playing a musical instrument also boosts your visual-spatial skills since you have to visualize how your body needs to move to create a particular sound.
Why Visual-Spatial Skills Matter
More and more jobs require visual-spatial skills. It used to be the turf of architects and designers, but now an increasing amount of programming, computing, and tech jobs require people to be able to visualize objects in space. So, if you want to succeed in today’s world, improving your visual-spatial skills is a must.