Understanding directionality gives a child the ability to apply movements in the context of the surrounding space. Not only is it an important concept in developing the ability to read a map, it is also necessary for understanding directions such as, "Pick up the toy on the right side of the toy box." It is even a necessary component of reading skills. The English language dictates that words are read from left to right, and letters such as “b” are formed this way, rather than this way, “d.”
Do the Hokey Pokey
You can use the silly "Hokey Pokey" song to help your child learn to decipher his right hand from his left. Before you know it, he will be able to follow directions such as, “Stay on the right side of the sidewalk,” and “You can clean up the left side of the room, please, while your brother cleans up the right.” Sing the song together or pick up a children's compilation CD and sing along with the music. While your child is still learning to decipher right from left, stand beside him, rather than facing him. He will likely copy your movements at the beginning and when you are across from him, he will use the wrong side to mirror your actions. Another song that works well as a directionality activity is "The Grand Ole Duke of York."
Create an obstacle course with plenty of ups and downs, lefts and rights, and ins and outs. You can set up the obstacle course outside on a warm summer's day -- and incorporate a few water-based obstacles to help reinforce opposites such as wet and dry -- or take the activity indoors on a rainy afternoon for fun, fitness and directionality learning. Have your child help you set up the obstacles so you can talk about the movements for each one. For example, talk about how she will have to climb up the mountain of pillows, crawl in and then out of the sandbox, ride her tricycle left to the swing set and then hop right toward the apple tree. When the course is ready, let her give it a try and continue to talk about the movements as she goes.
Whether you are attending an older sibling's soccer game or watching a big sports championship on TV, you can help a budding sports enthusiast learn about directionality by playing sportscaster for the game. During a sibling's game, talk about all of a big brother's movements with your child. For example, “Luca is running left across the field to keep up with the ball,” “Luca is kicking the ball up in the air,” and “Oops, Luca fell down on the ground.” Keep track of a favorite player's movements when you're watching the game on TV. If your child is not a sports fan, have him mention each time his favorite cartoon character talks about direction instead.
Organize a scavenger hunt for your child and have every clue include directional words. You can have your child hunt for items from nature in the backyard or at a park. Use clues such as, “walk to your right to find these prickly little things that have fallen from the tree that is green all year long,” and “crawl under the slide near the garden to find mommy's favorite yellow flowers.” Reward your child when she's completed the hunt with a special nature-themed craft activity such as pine cone painting or leaf rubbing. If you are planning a scavenger hunt indoors, you can use the items already located around the house, or choose a theme, such as stuffed animals, and hide all the stuffies from the toy box around the playroom.