The role of spatial abilities in young children's spatially-focused touchscreen game play

Naomi Polinsky*, Rachel Flynn, Ellen A. Wartella, David H. Uttal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


With the growth of touchscreen devices, children's play has become digital. This digital medium promotes spatial play because touchscreen games are visuospatial in nature, allowing children to manipulate shapes in ways that highlight spatial relations. Spatial play is important for spatial skill development, but few studies have examined children's digital spatial play. We explored the role of children's spatial abilities and gender in their play with two publicly available, spatially-focused touchscreen games: Busy Shapes, a shape sorting game, and RelationShapes, a puzzle game. Prior to playing the games, 3- and 4-year-olds (N = 55) completed a spatial skills assessment. We found that (a) girls performed better than boys on BusyShapes, and (b) that children's spatial skills were associated with their performance on both spatially-focused touchscreen games. This study is a first step in understanding the potential benefits of digital spatial play for children's spatial thinking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100970
JournalCognitive Development
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • Gender
  • Spatial play
  • Spatial skills
  • Touchscreen media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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