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How Homeschoolers can Make Map Skills Fun for Children

Updated on December 20, 2017
Stacie L profile image

Stacie L has been an educator for many years and likes to share her experiences and advice.

family playing board game
family playing board game | Source

A fun way for Home-schoolers to teach children about geography

For those who home-school, teaching about geography and map skills isn't always a priority. Why are map skills important to a child? Many adults cannot find a location on a map or have a sense of direction. It's an important skill to know so we don't end up lost in a strange location. I know people who still cannot maneuver around their own town or city,even after living there for years.

How do children learn geography and where they live? Learning to make and read a map is easier if you can present it in a fun, enjoyable format. Make a game map with the kids about their hometown.

Playing a board game that uses the recognizable places in your town will help children with memory skills, directions, and social skills. make sure to have a directions compass on the board.

Drive around your area and show the children on a hand held compass, where the grocery store is located from your house. Tell them, for instance, that the market is north of our house, or that the house is south of the market. Name the game after your own hometown and have fun.

If you live in a rural location, let them identify landmarks, buildings structures, hills or mountains, and woods. I like to use old barns and abandoned houses to find locations. Let the child identify special markers that they can remember.

Maybe you'll invent a game that will be marketable some day. The materials need not be expensive. You probably have most of them already.

Materials needed to create a map game

  • a set of permanent markers
  • 1 hot glue gun and glue sticks or Elmers household glue
  • 1/4 inch thick cardboard 24" x 24"
  • several photographs of town stores and schools
  • several 1"x1"photographs of family members
  • 10-20 poker chips
  • 40 - 2" x 3" index cards
  • 1 set of Dice
  • a digital camera or disposable camera
  • computer software to download photos
  • printer to print photos

Shogun | Source

Directions to make the board

  • Use your favorite board template such as "Monopoly" and draw the outline of the town. Be sure to label store names, schools, and other recognizable places in town. The board should be 24" x 24" with 3" squares drawn around the perimeter.
  • Next,draw or glue the photo of the building that you shot around town onto the square. Maybe have 6 to 8 places on the board. The rest of the spaces can have fun things or punishment tasks.
  • Have the children color the trim work around the edges
  • Write up penalty tasks on 20 cards and reward tasks on 20 cards
  • Have each family member pick a poker token and glue on their face from the printed photos
  • When the cards are in place and the tokens are dry, the family is now ready to play the game
  • Roll the dice to see who goes first and then continue going around the board, completing penalty or reward tasks. Whoever ends up with more rewards then penalty points,wins. Parents can reinforce places in town and directions.

Reminders for playing map skills game

Have the children take turns counting penalty or reward points. Help them with the arithmetic skills.

Also ask about directions to and the function of each store.

The stores can be changed whenever it becomes boring.

You may need to use a disposable camera and develop photos at the local drug store or office supply store, if you don't have a digital camera.

Lastly, have some good laughs. Socializing is an important skill that everyone needs. Learning to navigate around their hometown is another important skill to teach.

Getting kids away from the computer for a while is healthy.

An Alternative Method to Make a Map

Since technology is part of today's kids lives,you may want to make a map on the computer instead. You can use Google,MapQuest or Yahoo maps to start them off or help them visualize what it can look like.

Graphic software can also aid in naming special markers in the area. A friends home, the town main street, the highway, all can be included.

There are many free downloads on the Internet if you search for map software.

Microsoft has software to create your own maps ,even though these may be a little advanced for young children.

A GPS device such as a Garmin is a new way to see maps and create your local area map as well. Drive around the county and later download the trip to see what the area looks like.

Summary of teaching children map skills

Even though we now have technology to help us navigate around a city, it is important for children to understand how to locate places without it. Batteries do run low and machines do malfunction. I can't tell you how many time my Garmin instructed me to turn onto a road that didn't exist or gave me the longest route to my destination. Learning to read maps at an early age will carry them into adulthood.

Doing things together as a family is becoming harder to do today so this is one way to bring everyone to the table. Geography isn't just about locating items on a map. Locating real life places, streets, buildings and streets will help them feel they belong. Many adults never learned how to find their way and still struggle with directions. Be sure to emphasize to younger children that it is a game and it's for fun. Kids don't like doing anything that's "good for them."

With practice, they will be able to find their way around and become more confident.

© 2010 Stacie L


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