Part of the motor skill development during baby’s first year includes learning concepts of orientation.  These concepts include on, off, inside, outside, over, under, right, left, and more.  These concepts help us to be very clear about where we are in relationship to our environment. A baby who crawls under a chair has a very different perspective and relationship to the environment than a baby who is sitting on a chair.  Learning one’s orientation in space is part of a larger experience of proprioception, which tells us where our body parts are in space as well.  Sometimes the spatial orientation describes an object and its relationship to us, such as “The shoe is on your foot.”


Parents guide babies toward a highly-developed motor skill ability when they teach the concepts of spatial orientation during infancy.  Their movement develops more clarity and directness with the learning of these concepts.  Think about what you would do if someone asked you to go to the other side of the room.  Now, think about what you would do if someone asked you to go to the other side of the room and sit in the red chair.  This instruction regarding the red chair gives your movement a specific guideline that creates clarity and purpose in your movement.  A child would be clear about where to go and what to do when they arrive.  Without the instruction of the red chair there are so many options available.  Do they sit or stand?  On the blue chair or red chair or sofa?  Carefully chosen words clarify the movement for a child if she understands clearly the spatial concepts.  Learning these concepts begins at birth.


  • in/out
  • on/off
  • open/close
  • inside/outside
  • under/on top of
  • right/left
  • beside/across from/next to


Add these sentences to your vocabulary with baby to guide her toward an understanding of spatial concepts:

  • Hold the rattle in your hand.
  • Let’s put you in the car seat./Let’s take you out of the car seat.
  • Let’s put the shoe on your foot/Let’s take the shoe off your foot.
  • Let’s put the shoe on your right foot/left foot.
  • Sit in the high chair./Would you like to get out of the high chair ?
  • Set the block on the table./Set the block under the table.
  • Open your hand for some cheerios./Close your hand to hold the cheerio.
  • Shall we read a story?  Sit next to me.  Now, open the book.


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