Action Research on Promoting Spatial Skills Development of Older Children in Block Play

  • Zhang HUI
  • Jia GUIMEI


Spatial skills are an important part of human intelligence and have a profound impact on children's later learning and development of mathematics, and block play, as one of the most fundamental activities in kindergarten, has a positive effect on the development of children's spatial skills. In order to improve children's spatial skills through block play, this study used an action research paradigm to intervene with 30 children in the experimental and control classes over a period of three months. In quantitative terms, the spatial skills of the children in the experimental class showed significant improvements in comparison with those in the control class. In terms of quality, the children in the experimental class used significantly more spatial language in their block play and their level of construction improved significantly. Problem solving skills were developed and interest in constructing was increased during collaborative construction. Teachers who participated in the action research were less 'resistant' to the role of the teacher in block play, and their ability to use block play as a guide for children's spatial skills development was improved. The collaboration of the research team members was a key factor in the success of the action research. Teachers should use different types of block play to improve children's construction skills. Promote peer block building to bring out the unique value of peer construction. Focus on the role of spatial language and encourage children to use it to communicate.


[1] Beth M. Casey, Nicole Andrews, Holly Schindler, et al. 2008. The Development of Spatial Skills through Interventions Involving Block Building Activities. Cognition and Instruction, 26(3):269-309.
[2] Bowerman, M., and Choi, S. 2003. Space under construction: language-specific categorization in first language acquisition [M]// Language in Mind: Advances in the Study of Language and Though, 387-428.
[3] Casey, B. M., Lombardi, M. P., Pollock, A., Fineman, B., and Pezaris, E. 2017. Girls' spatial skills and arithmetic strategies in first grade as predictors of fifth-grade analytical math reasoning. Journal of Cognition and Development, 18(5): 530-555.
[4] Casey, M.B., Andrews, N., Schindler, H., Kersh, J.E., Sampler, A., and Copley, J. 2008. The development of spatial skills through interventions involving block building activities. Cognition and Instruction, 26: 269-309.
[5] Cheng, Y., and Mix, K. S. 2014. Spatial training improves children's mathematics ability. Journal of Cognition and Development, 15: 2 - 11.
[6] Cohen, L., and Uhry, J. 2007.Young children's discourse strategies during block play: A Bakhtinian approach. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 21: 302-315.
[7] Elliott J. 1991. Action research for educational change. Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 78.
[8] Gunderson, E. A., Ramirez, G., Beilock, S. L., and Levine, S. C. 2012. The relation between spatial skill and early number knowledge: the role of the linear number line. American Psychological Association (5).
[9] Hawes, Z., Lefevre, J. A., Xu, C., and Bruce, C. D. 2015. Mental rotation with tangible three-dimensional objects: a new measure sensitive to developmental differences in 4- to 8-year-old children. mind Brain and Education, 9(1): 10-18.
[10] Hocl. 2016. An investigation of preschool teachers' ways of seeing action research using phenomenography. Educ Res Policy, (15):147 -162.
[11] Huang Z., and Tian, F. 2015. Core experiences of preschool children's mathematics learning and development. Nanjing: Nanjing Normal University Press, 89-91.
[12] Hyde, J. S., Fennema, E., and Lamon, S. J. 1990. Gender differences in mathematics performance: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 107: 139-155.
[13] Kang, D., Hu, Z., Cai, J., Liu, J., Jane, and Liu, J. P. 2020. Intervention effects of thematic block games on the development of mathematical ability and spatial skills in 5- to 6-year-old children. Chinese Journal of Mental Health, 034(004): 332-336.
[14] Kersh, J., Casey, B.M., and Mercer Young, J. 2008. Research on spatial skills and block building in boys and girls: The relationship to later mathematics learning. In O.N. Saracho, and B. Spodek (Eds.), Contemporary perspectives on mathematics in early childhood (pp. 233-252).
[15] Li, F. Y., Kang, D., Gou, H. M., Wen, Y. R., and He, Q. 2022. New developments in the study of spatial skills, spatial language and constructive level in children's block play. Journal of Shaanxi Preschool Teachers' College, 38(10): 49-57.
[16] Li, Z. B. 1992. The significance of action research and its dissemination. Educational Guide: (6), 5.
[17] Liu Yan. General Theory of Play for Young Children [M]. Beijing: Beijing Normal University Press, 2008.
[18] Mazurin. 2013. Igniting children's creative sparks: A recording and analysis of block activities at Taichung Amity Kindergarten. Nanjing: Nanjing Normal University Press, 20.
[19] Milis Ce. Teacher's guide to action research. 2010. Chongqing: Chongqing University Press, (3): 11-12.
[20] Mix, K. S., Levine, S. C., Cheng, Y. L., Young, C., Hambrick, D. Z., Ping, R., and Konstantopoulos, S. 2016. Separate but correlated: The latent structure of space and mathematics across development. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 145: 1206 - 1227.
[21] Newman, S. D., Hansen, M. T., and Arianna, G. 2016. An firm study of the impact of block building and board games on spatial ability. frontiers in psychology, 7.
[22] Newman, Sharlene D., M. T. Hansen, and A. Gutierrez. 2016. ‘An fMRI Study of the Impact of Block Building and Board Games on Spatial Ability.’ Frontiers in Psychology, 7.
[23] Peters, M., Laeng, B., Latham, K., Jackson, M., Zaiyouna, R., and Richardson, C. 1995. A redrawn Vandenberg and Kuse mental rotations test-different versions and factors that affect performance. Brainand Cognition, 28(1): 39 -58.
[24] Pruden, S.M., Levine, S.C., and Huttenlocher, J. 2011. Children's spatial thinking: Does talk about the spatial world matter? Developmental Science, 14: 1417-1430.
[25] Ramani, G.B., Zippert, E., Schweitzer, S., and Pan, S. 2014. Preschool children's joint block building during a guided play activity. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 35: 326-336.
[26] Shi, T. 2004. Introduction to research on school education. Guangzhou: Guangdong Higher Education Publishing House, 189.
[27] Stieff, M. 2007. Mental rotation and diagrammatic reasoning in science. Learning and Instruction,17: 219-234.
[28] Tormey, R., Liddy, M., and Mccloat, M.A. 2008. Working in the action/research nexus for education for sustainable development: two case studies from Ireland. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 9(4): 428-440.
[29] Vandenberg, S. G., and Kuse, A. R. 1978. Mental rotations, a group test of three-dimensional spatial visualization. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 47(2): 599 -604.
[30] Verdine, B. N., Bunger, A., Athanasopoulou, A., Golinkoff, R. M., and Hirsh-Pasek, K. 2017. Shape up: An eye-tracking study of preschool- ers' shape name processing and spatial development. Developmental Psychology, 53: 1869 - 1880. DOI: 1037/dev0000384
[31] Wai, J., Lubinski, D., and Benbow, C. P. 2009. Spatial ability for STEM domains: Aligning over 50 years of cumulative psychological knowledge solidifies its importance. journal of Educational Psychology, 101: 817-835. DOI: http://
[32] Wu, N. Y., An X, and Mao, Y. M. 2021. A new species of the genus Phyllostachys (Hymenoptera, Braconidae, Braconidae) from China. A study on the effects of different types of block play on young children's spatial ability. (2019-2): 84-88.
[33] Zhang X. X. 2013. The improvement of 4-5-year-old children's building block construction level and its influence on the development of geometric spatial ability [D]. Beijing: Capital Normal University, 2013.
[34] Zhang, Y. C., Li, J., Shen, T., Zheng, H. L., Wang, L. H., and Li, Y. 2019. An action research on using multiple representations teaching strategies to promote the development of pattern skills in older children. Preschool Education Research (6), 12.
How to Cite
FEIYAN, Li et al. Action Research on Promoting Spatial Skills Development of Older Children in Block Play. Journal of Research in Educational Sciences, [S.l.], v. 14, n. 16, p. 5 - 16, dec. 2023. ISSN 2068-8407. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 18 july 2024. doi: