Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Introducing maps to young children

My husband and I love travel, and we've been lucky enough to have visited many countries around the world. To a certain extent that is on hold for the next few years, but I'm still keen to teach Harry (and Mia of course when she's a bit older) about the world and his place in it. So I've been putting together some ideas on how to introduce Harry to maps. He is currently 3 1/2.

Introducing maps and geography to young children

The first thing that I did was to teach him how maps relate to the real world. To do this I took three cups and a small toy. I laid the cups out in front of Harry and placed the toy underneath one of them. Then I drew three circles on a piece of paper to represent the cups, and drew an X where the toy was. To my surprise Harry picked this up very quickly and was able to find the toy when I hid it while his back was turned.

I expanded upon this idea by making a very simple map of the living room. I drew the key features (sofa, television, mantle piece, window etc.) and explained to him what they were. Then he left the room and I hid the toy. When he returned I showed him on the map where the toy was and he went to find it. He did pretty well with this, he couldn't manage it when the map was rotated but I think that he had at least some understanding that the picture on the paper related to the objects in the room around him.

Then we went to the computer and loaded up Google Maps. I found our house, and then I zoomed out to show him our street, village, country and so on right out to a map of the world. Then I zoomed back in again. He was absolutely fascinated by this. I found the places that we walk to locally, the playground, the village shops, baby group and so on, and he loved it. I left him to explore by himself clicking around with the mouse and he was entertained for ages.

We also looked at an actual physical atlas, to familarise him with the shapes of the different countries and continents. We have a world map in our study and one over his bed in his bedroom, and we often talk about the different countries. I've pointed out ones with distinctive shapes like Australia, and ones with special meaning to us, like the United Kingdom and India, where one set of grandparents are from.

We've also done a couple of crafts around the theme of geography. Together we put together a Me on the Map book, which is a really good way to introduce the concept of geography to small children.

Introducing maps and geography to young children

We also made lots of flags from different countries in Europe to celebrate the Euro 2012 football tournament and the Olympics. This also helped to re-inforce the idea of the world being made up of lots of different countries. There are lots of activities that you can do when you have a selection of flags, for example sorting them according to the colours that they contain or the features that they have, like stripes or circles.

Introducing maps and geography to young children

Do you have any more ideas for ways to introduce geography to young children? Please feel free to add suggestions or a link in the comments below!

Top image by John-Mark Kuznietsov via Unsplash

14 comments:

  1. I was thinking of similar things for when Holly is old enough! Also although its a bit cheesey we love the eurovision song contest in our house and have a party every year. We will do that with Holly too and get a giant map of europe and when each song comes on I was thinking we could colour it in on the map or stick a little flag in it! She'll probably be too busy trying to dance to the music though!

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    1. That's a really good idea, we might have to try that if Harry could stay awake long enough! It's a good way to at least bring up the concept of different countries even if they aren't quite old enough to fully comprehend it.

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  2. When you go to different places like parks, on countryside walks etc, be sure to point out the maps. When we took Harry to the park, he made a beeline for the map on a poster, and knew exactly what it was and that it showed you where things were.

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    1. You're right, he does notice maps when we are out and about. Perhaps I need to take a map with us when we are out and about and point out landmarks to him.

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  3. These are great ideas, particularly the game of having a map of the living room to find a hidden toy. I might do a little treasure hunt. Thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. Glad you like it, I was surprised how quickly my son picked up on the idea (he was using landmarks like the television to find his way around, but I think that he did understand that the picture related to the room).

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  4. I love the idea of a living room treasure hunt, a great way to introduce the concept of maps.

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  5. Some great ideas - love it - my 2 absolutely love Google maps. With my son (7) we took it another step further and looked at the position / size of the Earth in the Universe - there are some great youtube videos out there to put this into perspective.

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    1. Thank you! I will have a look on youtube, it's a great resource and thanks for drawing my attention to it!

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  6. I love the idea of using a simple map to find the toy under the cups. What a great way to teach these concepts. Thanks for linking up to Tuesday Tots. I've pinned this to our Pinterest board.

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    1. Thank you, I'm glad that you liked it!

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  7. What a fabulous idea - I love this and will be trying it with J sometime this year. Just to let you know I'm featuring it in my weekly newsletter this week.

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