Geography maps represent the real world. Young kids won't fully understand maps until they are much older. However, without a foundation from their own experiences, children will not develop into successful map readers or users when they are older. Personal experience helps children understand maps and how they use symbols, which can be introduced to children when they are quite young.
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Before kids can learn to use maps, they must understand that maps are tools to help us find where we are and where we are going. They need to know that maps and globes use other symbols and the concept of scale. They are pictures from a "bird's eye view," and reduce the size of an actual place.
Geography maps - Ages 4-5
- By the time kids are four and five years old some can use a simple map to locate an object. They understand that maps represent reality. They also can develop beginning ideas of scale, symbols, and perspective, and the idea that maps are tools people use to locate themselves in space. Put your child's natural curiosity to work. Even small kids can learn to read simple diagrams or plans of their homes, or maps of their bedrooms, school, neighborhood, and community.
- When your children play with toy trucks and cars they are learning the use of symbols. Take advantage of this opportunity, and either draw a rough map of a highway, a city, or a park over which they can run their trucks, or pretend that things around your house are trees or fields.
- Point to symbols you use in your daily life. For example, you stop at a red light, and go on the green. Red means stop, green means go.
- If you are upstairs in a building, look out the window and ask your children how the world below looks. Is it small? The higher up you go, the smaller things on the ground appear, just like looking at a map.
- Before taking a trip, use a map to show your children where you are going and how you plan to get there. On the map, point out other routes you could take and talk about why you decided to use a particular route.
- Encourage children to draw and make their own maps. They can draw make believe maps of places they have visited or just imagined. They can use felt markers--but let them use blocks and milk cartons as well, for a three--dimensional approach. Children may build, draw, or paint maps well before they are able to read them.
- Go on a walk and collect natural materials such as acorns and leaves to use for an art project. Map the location where you found those items.
- Many games use geography maps of journeys. Some libraries will lend games as well as books.
- If you go for a walk in a state or national park, get a map of the pathways and let your child carry it around and "consult" it.
- Work jigsaw puzzles of the United States or the world. Through the placement of puzzle pieces, children can feel and see where one place is located in relation to others.