Is Early Spatial Skills Training Effective? A Meta-Analysis

Spatial skills significantly predict educational and occupational achievements in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). As early interventions for young children are usually more effective than interventions that come later in life, the present meta-analysis systematically included 20 spatial intervention studies (2009–2020) with children aged 0–8 years to provide an up-to-date account of the malleability of spatial skills in infancy and early childhood. Our results revealed that the average effect size (Hedges’s g) for training relative to control was 0.96 (SE = 0.10) using random effects analysis. We analyzed the effects of several moderators, including the type of study design, sex, age, outcome category (i.e., type of spatial skills), research setting (e.g., lab vs. classroom), and type of training. Study design, sex, and outcome category were found to moderate the training effects. The results suggest that diverse training strategies or programs including hands-on exploration, visual prompts, and gestural spatial training significantly foster young children’s spatial skills. Implications for research, policy, and practice are also discussed.

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