Explore, imagine, create and experiment with shapes, spaces and spatial thinking through hands-on play and learning experiences.

Spatial thinking is part of everyday life and is necessary to navigate, explore and survive in the world.  People think spatially all the time – when tying shoes, reading maps, finding the way to the store, packing a suitcase, doing jigsaw puzzles, climbing rocks and cutting sandwiches in half – and they become better with practice.  Spatial thinkers are architects designing buildings, pilots flying planes, doctors reading x-rays, plumbers installing pipes, bakers decorating cakes, geologists studying fossils and artists painting landscapes. Kids are spatial thinkers, too!

Spatial thinking is a powerful problem-solving tool and a key to kids’ interest and success in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines.  While spatial thinking develops over a lifetime, research suggests that early development of spatial thinking skills increases later achievement in math and science – and that, for young children, hands-on experiences are especially important.  However, though kids learn the basics of shape and space, spatial thinking isn’t systematically taught in schools. 

ThinkSpace is recommended for children ages 4 to 10 – and their adult friends – for maximum understanding and interest. Younger and older children also enjoy many of the exhibit’s interactive elements and there are activities especially for toddlers.  Museum play guides are on hand to encourage fun and learning.  A resource nook contains books about spatial thinking.

Learn more about ThinkSpace on the Museum blog and in its newsletter.

Some things to do in ThinkSpace


  • Move wooden beads along colorful wires. Push them up hills, around loops, through tunnels and watch as they slide down slopes.
  • Play with Magna-Tiles™ – sort them, stack them, stick them to the magnetic wall.
  • Squares, circles, triangles, stars – which hole fits which block?
  • Grasp and pull, twist and turn, open and shut – work real latches to open tiny doors.


  • Build with the wooden blocks. Make something tall. Make something short. How many different shaped blocks can you use?
  • Grow and shrink shadows. Put the wooden solids together to make new shadow shapes.
  • Make a flower by stacking the colorful tiles in different combinations.
  • Construct a box using the Magna-Tiles. What else can you build?
  • Make a pattern on the magnetic board.

Ages 5 to 7:

  • Set up the dominoes in zigzags and spirals. Knock one over to start a chain reaction.
  • Use the 25 colorful cube blocks to make a picture. Copy a design or create your own.
  • Play the Shape Talk game with a friend. You both win if your patterns are exactly the same. No peeking!
  • Make 3-dimensional objects look 2-dimensional in the shadow booth. Use the blocks and animals to make a shadow scene.
  • Build with the seven Soma puzzle blocks. Try to make a cube, a tall tower or something else

Ages 8 and up:

  • Create kaleidoscopic designs by rotating and layering colorful tiles. Copy a design or create your own.
  • Roll a ball through a mystery maze and use your senses to figure out its path. Draw a diagram of the hidden maze.
  • Use the seven pieces of the Soma puzzle to make a big cube. (There are 240 ways to do it!)
  • Snap the Jovo® tiles together to make solid shapes. Try making 3-dimensional shapes using just one kind of flat shape (just triangles or squares or pentagons) – how many Platonic solids can you make?
  • Use a floor plan to navigate through the Museum and find spatial challenges everywhere you go.

ThinkSpace is funded by lead corporate sponsor National Grid and The Champlin Foundations, with additional support from The June Rockwell Levy Foundation.

Other Exhibits:

Play Power | Water Ways | The Children's Garden | The Climber | Underland
Littlewoods | Coming to Rhode Island | Iway | Strings Attached