ABSTRACT As babies rapidly acquire motor skills that give them increasingly independent and wide-ranging access to the environment over the first two years of human life, they decrease their reliance on habit systems for spatial localization, switching to their emerging inertial navigation system and to allocentric frameworks. Initial place learning is evident towards the end of the period. From 3 to 10 years, children calibrate their ability to encode various sources of spatial information (inertial information, geometric cues, beacons, proximal landmarks and distal landmarks) and begin to combine cues, both within and across systems. Geometric cues are important, but do not constitute an innate and encapsulated module. In addition, from 3 to 10 years, children build the capacity to think about frames of reference different from their current one (i.e. to perform perspective taking). By around 12 years, we see adult-level performance and adult patterns of individual differences on cognitive mapping tasks requiring the integration of vista views of space into environmental space. These lines of development are continuous rather than stage-like. Spatial development builds on important beginnings in the neural systems of newborns, but changes in experience-expectant ways with motor development, action in the world and success–failure feedback. Human systems for integrating and manipulating spatial information also benefit from symbolic capacities and technological inventions.