Teaching Over, Under, Around, and Through

Let’s cover a few different directional concepts; This over, under, around, and through activity for preschool is a spatial relations concept. These positional concepts are an important part of preschool development.

Teaching Directional Concepts: Over, Under, Around, and Through


Learning Spatial Concepts during play

One rainy pre-Halloween day, I had an idea to bring a pumpkin into our play.  We were going to play a game teaching Spatial Concepts.

Teaching Spatial Concepts to Preschoolers and Toddlers through play. Over, under, around, and through and their need in functional tasks like shoe tying and handwriting.
What are spatial concepts??  
It’s those direction/spatial relationship/preposition words that tell you where something is related to something else… you know… beside, in front of, behind, over, under, around,  through, last, etc. 


These are great concepts to teach to preschoolers. 

Positional concepts are especially important in pre-handwriting.  Once they begin handwriting, kids are taught line awareness, placement of letters on the top/middle/bottom lines, how to move over a space between words, how the “y” has a tail that hangs below the bottom line…So many times, a messy hand-writer is showing problems with spatial organization and concepts.

Spatial concepts and directional terms are also important in teaching shoe tying…BIG need for understanding “AROUND the loop”, “push the lace THROUGH with your thumb”)…
They can begin learning these concepts by discovering where their bodies are in relationship to objects.  
We pulled the couch cushions off of the couches and set up tunnels, bridges (cushion over a blanket…use that imagination!), and obstacles.
My kids love the couch cushions…There are definitely days that we use the couch cushions more on the floor than we do actually on the couches.
I started singing to them, “Where is pumpkin? Where is pumpkin? Here I am, THROUGH the tunnel!” to the tune of Where is Thumbkin, and changing the last line depending on where the pumpkin was that time.

Teaching Over, Under, Around, and Through

Preschool children will love to learn and play with spatial concepts over, under, around, and through with this pretend play activity.
You totally don’t need to use a pumpkin for this…you could use a stuffed animal, action figure, apple…whatever would spark your child’s interest!
We changed it up after a bit.  And for something different, I would tell them to first go over the bridge, then go around the cushion wall, then go through the tunnel.  
They loved going over, under, around, and through obstacles to get to where the pumpkin was.  And then making up their own sequence to get to the pumpkin.  
Baby Girl just enjoyed going over cushions.


Pretend Play with Spatial Concepts

Big Sister and Little Guy decided to change the game into a pumpkin patch, complete with a cushion “tractor” to take them to the pumpkin patch and some stuffed animal “kids” to join them.  
The stuffed kids got to ride the tractor…
And go into the pumpkin patch.
And pay for their pumpkins with “coins”.
Real-world application of the spatial concepts we learned???
“Cuddles the Bear gets to go in the pumpkin patch in front of Puppy, because she is pink, and that’s good manners”.
Ok, then. 

More Preschool Spatial Learning Activities

Want to continue the spatial concept learning with your preschooler?  

  • Add music…Sing and act out “Over the river and through the woods”, “Going on a bear hunt”, and “The bear went over the mountain”.
  • Grab a basket or container of any kind. Toddlers love putting things “in”/taking them “out”.  Add more complexity for bigger kids by adding multi-step directions. “Take 5 steps forward, go under the chair, then crawl around the blanket”.
  • Make a backyard map to work on directional concepts.
  • Play “I Spy” by looking around the room and finding 3 things that are under something, or 3 things that are behind something.
  • Pencil control worksheets you can make at home
  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.


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teach spatial concepts over under around and through with play

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