What is a Visual/ Spatial Learner
Train Tracks, Castles and Cityscapes: Visual/ Spatial Learner

The toddler is glued to a train track set, determined, day after day, past tears and tantrums, to force the pieces into a pattern that he can clearly see in his mind. Five years later, he assembles hundreds of tiny Lego pieces into amazing structures and action scenes.

In his tweens, having graduated to video games, he spends many hours in Minecraft building blocky pixelated castles with trapdoors and secret passageways. Eventually, he uses online photos to create a digital version of the Paris cityscape.

Some people think in images from a young age.  In Gardener’s system of multiple intelligences, they are called Visual / Spatial Learners (VSL) because they create mental pictures to remember the information they are learning. “A picture speaks a thousand words” is a saying tailor made for them.

Think Steve Jobs. After dropping out of college, he audited a calligraphy class and was fascinated by typefaces. When he decided to create a new computer, it had to be not just functional, but beautiful. Hence Apple’s revolutionary design ecosystem!

Is My Child A Visual / Spatial Learner?

VS kids tend to be easy to spot. Just remember that they may be equally gifted at several learning styles. Or not.  It’s good to test different strategies to find out how they absorb and retain information best.

In general, visual/spatial learners are the children taking things apart to see how they work, building modular dollhouses, reprogramming computers, completing advanced puzzles, and mastering Tetris style games. They may also be interested in the arts, music and drama.

People who have “photographic memories” are often spatial learners and can remember faces or facts as long as they saw them either in person or on video.

Due to social media and our ever-increasing reliance on screens, communication is more visual these days. As digital natives, young kids gravitate to digital tools no matter what their other preferences. Ditto for learning. So the following strategies and approaches may be helpful to all learners to some extent!

How Do I Help my VS Child Learn?

Traditional schooling techniques such as drill work, repetition, and rote memorization don’t work best for a VSL. Standardized tests, with their focus on verbal and math skills, often miss spatial ability.  In fact, VSL kids may struggle in traditional school settings, unless they have strongly developed verbal or math skills.  

To help them at home, the basic idea is to work with images. VSL kids think in pictures and need to create mental pictures in order to remember the information.

This is easier said than done if you are not a visual-spatial learner, but a little planning can go a long way.  The tricky part is that your VSL child can get the big idea quite clearly.  But they often miss the little things.  They are not good at compartmentalizing the subject to smaller bits and pieces of information.

So make ample use of visuals. Screens, whiteboards, chalkboards, colorful maps.  Videos.

Writing information down on a whiteboard, chalkboard, overhead transparency, or any other visual aid is essential. When you explain something, use vivid imagery to aid them in memorization.

For spelling, it may help to write the words in very large, colorful print. Show this to your child at arms’ length and slightly above their eye level. Have him or her visualize the word, and create a picture in his head. Spelling it backwards to imagine the word, then forwards, then written on a piece of paper is often effective.

Also ask the child to translate anything she hears, while you are talking to her, into mind pictures, or to draw pictures on post-its. This can include multiplication tables. Historical events. Concepts from science. Free online project whiteboards such as Miro may appeal to older kids.

Content is more important than format for visual-spatial learners. Make sure your child understands the basics first and teach to their strengths. Instead of having your child write a book report, have them build, or draw a report detailing what happens in the book visually.

Remember, VSL people have wonderful long-term memories, as long as they can visualize the event!

World of Learning Beyond Home

Do they like plays? Do they want to help design sets? Or costumes? Great! Involve them in local community theater. Look for online workshops in film-making, or photography clubs.  For older kids, teach safe use of social media with Instagram, Pinterest or other image-heavy social media platforms.

If your child is interested in public service, consider a program such as Habitat For Humanity. Volunteers help build homes while meeting architects, planners and construction staff. Digital design or photography interest can be channeled into projects that help a local food drive.

Outdoorsy? Your child might enjoy learning how to navigate with map and compass.

Consider getting his or her input the next time you decide to remodel something. For the holidays, have them decide how to set the table, present the food, ordecorate the space. Even a teen might really enjoy that.


A visual-spatial learner can be whatever he or she want to be, as all people can. However, some professions may be a better fit.

These learners could possibly make great careers in STEM, architecture, visual arts, or design. Many other fields also rely on 3D and pictorial thinking -  for example, commercial piloting, medical imaging, and urban planning.  And data visualization is a growing field, found everywhere these days, from game design to political campaigns to finance.

Further Reading:
Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual Spatial Learner
Raising Topsy-Turvy Kids: Successfully Parenting Your Visual-Spatial Child
Visual-Spatial Learners
Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century
You're Smarter Than You Think: A Kid's Guide to Multiple Intelligences

In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child's Multiple Intelligences
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