When I think of visual-spatial skills, I recall a high school aptitude test in which I had to study various forms and determine what they would look like if twisted this way or that.
I didn’t think about it much after that, but visual-spatial skills are becoming increasingly crucial in today’s environment.
Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences
One of Howard Gardner’s many bits of intelligence is visual-spatial intelligence. Gardner’s hypothesis broadens our understanding of intelligence. Gardner’s idea of multiple intelligences allows people to flourish in areas other than academic intelligence, or book smarts.
Musical, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic, existential, and visual-spatial intelligence are among Gardner’s many bits of intelligence.
The ability to visualize items’ positions, shapes, movements, and relationships to other objects is known as visual-spatial intelligence.
Two things come to me when I consider visual-spatial intelligence. First and foremost, there was that aptitude exam I took in high school. To answer the test questions correctly, I had to mentally flip objects around and shift them.
Then there’s Ikea furniture. Putting together Ikea furniture makes me think about visual-spatial intelligence (or lack thereof). My husband had just finished constructing an armoire.
When I got down to the basement, I noticed that one of the shelves had been flipped and rotated to fit better into the frame.
That’s visual-spatial intelligence: the ability to visualize how objects will seem when they’re moved and how their relationships with other objects will change.
If I’m being completely honest, the shelf was still turned upside down, so perhaps my visual-spatial intelligence isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
How to Improve Your Visual-Spatial Skills
When you think of visual-spatial skills like intelligence, you might think of them as innate—you’re either born with them or you’re not. That, however, is not the case.
Carol Dweck’s mindset theory is one of my favorites, and I think it’s a terrific approach to think about visual-spatial skills as well.
When you have a growth mindset, you believe that your talents and abilities are pliable and that you can progress over time with dedication and effort.
A fixed mindset, on the other hand, is when you believe that certain talents and abilities (such as visual-spatial intelligence) are fixed—that you are either born with it or not.
When it comes to visual-spatial skills, it’s critical to have a growth attitude. You can increase your ability to visualize items, their relationships to other objects, and their placements in space by doing exercises and activities every day.
1. Move Your Body
Being one of those moving objects is one approach to strengthen your visual-spatial skills. Move your body, that’s right.
Being able to visualize your body’s relationship to other objects in space is part of visual-spatial intelligence, thus movements that demand this form of bodily intelligence can help you improve your visual-spatial skills.
Consider the disciplines of dancing and martial arts.  You’re undoubtedly improving your visual-spatial skills as well as your body if you have to strain your head to figure out which foot belongs where.
While taking a trip outside, you can also take attention to the shapes, sizes, and interactions between objects. What is going on in the background? In the forefront, what’s going on?
What’s the distance between that tree and the creek? Examine the scenery as things and their placement in relation to other objects.
2. Paint a Pretty Little Painting
Your visual-spatial skills can also be aided by the arts. When I was a kid, I recall seeing Bob Ross paint his lovely miniature trees on PBS. I’d sit and watch for hours, mesmerized by his ability to produce such depth in his paintings.
Everything was the same size and on the same plane when I painted. Bob Ross is not one of them. His paintings featured things that were clearly related to one another.
The mountains were visible in the distance. The mountains were in front of the trees. Birds flew in and out of the scene, from foreground to background.
What better way to improve your visual-spatial skills than by painting your own happy tiny trees with your own paintbrush?
Even if you’re not a Monet, you’ll be honing your ability to visualize objects and their relationships to one another. If you want to study from the master himself, you may still find Bob Ross’s courses on YouTube.
3. Ditch the GPS
While you’re at it, leave your GPS at home the next time you’re driving or walking somewhere. In terms of visual-spatial abilities, GPS offers us no favors. When you use GPS, you don’t have to worry about where you are or how you’re going to go from point A to point B.
So, put down the phone and go find a map. Study the map before your next excursion and find out how to get from point A to point B. Studying maps is an excellent approach to training your brain’s visual-spatial abilities.
4. Play Video Games
Another technique to improve your visual-spatial skills is to play video games. Consider the games Tetris and Snood. I know I’m a little behind the times, but these games are an excellent way to visualize the shapes, sizes, and interactions between objects.
They’re also useful for visualizing how items interact with one another as they travel through space. It’s an added plus that they’re also entertaining and a fantastic way to pass the time on a lengthy vehicle ride without a GPS.
5. Try 3D Puzzles
There are also a variety of 3D puzzles to try. I’m usually reminded of the 3D Empire State Building problem, although there are plenty of others to choose from. Really, the sky’s the limit.
Even a simple puzzle can help you improve your visual-spatial skills because you have to imagine how the pieces will look when flipped and twisted. So grab a puzzle, settle in, and work on your visual-spatial skills.
6. Bust Out the Brain Teasers
There are also cognitive teasers that remind me of the aptitude test I took in high school.  These are just visual queries regarding which shape follows next in a pattern or how this shape would seem if inverted or rotated. These children’s brain teasers are also a lot of fun.
7. Build Stuff
Let’s imagine you’ve completed the brain teasers and puzzles, but you still want to improve your visual-spatial skills. I’ve got you taken care of. You have the ability to literally construct things.
I used to compete in Odyssey of the Mind as a kid. We completed the challenge of constructing a structure out of balsa wood.
The construction had to be extremely sturdy and withstand weights and collisions, therefore the act of designing and building this light but powerful structure necessitated extensive visual-spatial skills and problem-solving.
You no longer need to construct a balsa wood building to improve your visual-spatial abilities. A mechanism to safeguard a raw egg from a high fall could be built. You may construct a coop for your chickens.
You could even make Ikea furniture from scratch. It’s entirely up to you, however, if you want to maintain your talents, simply make anything.
Reading can also help you improve your visual-spatial abilities. Any book that involves items moving through space (including people) will help you develop your talents.
It’s far superior to a movie or television show because you have to mentally visualize the action, which is what visual-spatial abilities are all about: visualizing objects.
Related: Books to Read in Spring
9. Pick Up an Instrument and Play
Playing a musical instrument has also been proved to improve your visual-spatial abilities in studies.
Again, it’s all about visualization and imagination. To play an instrument, you must visualize how your body should move in order to produce a specific sound.
So, the next time you’re plunking away at the piano, tell yourself that, while you may not be the best pianist, you’re at least improving your visual-spatial abilities.
Why Visual-Spatial Skills Matter
Visual-spatial skills are becoming increasingly important in the workplace. Architects and designers used to be the only ones who could do it, but now a growing number of programming, computer, and tech positions require people to be able to mentally move objects in space.
To think abstractly and understand how details fit together to produce the big picture, you’ll require visual-spatial skills.
The consequences are the same whether you’re painting, playing, building, or roaming. Boost your visual-spatial abilities to have a greater understanding of the world and your role in it, as well as to finally be able to assemble that Ikea Kleppstad cabinet.
- BMC: Does physical exercise improve perceptual skills and visuospatial attention in older adults? A review
2. TeachStarter: 10 Visual Brainteasers Kids will Love!