Effects of a classroom intervention with spatial play materials on children's object and viewer transformation abilities

Karin Vander Heyden, Mariette Huizinga, Jelle Jolles

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Children practice their spatial skills when playing with spatial toys, such as construction materials, board games, and puzzles. Sex and SES differences are observed in the engagement in such spatial play activities at home, which relate to individual differences in spatial performance. The current study investigated the effects of explicitly providing spatial play activities in the school setting on different types of spatial ability. We presented 8-to 10-year-old children with a short and easy-to-adopt classroom intervention comprising a set of different spatial play materials. The design involved a pretest-posttest comparison between the intervention group (n=70) and a control group without intervention (n =70). Effects were examined on object transformation ability (i.e., a paper-and-pencil mental rotation and paper folding task) and viewer transformation ability (i.e., a hands-on 3D spatial perspective-taking task). Results showed specific effects: there were no differences between the intervention and control group in progress on the two object transformation tasks. Substantial improvements were found for the intervention group compared to the control group on the viewer transformation task. Training progress was not related to sex and socioeconomic background of the child. These findings support the value of spatial play in the classroom for the spatial development of children between 8 and 10 years of age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-305
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


  • Elementary school
  • Mental folding
  • Mental rotation
  • Spatial perspective taking
  • Spatial training


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