Fun Ways to Teach Kids Geography
Yes - you can make learning Geography FUN!
Do your children know where India is? Or what the capital of Wisconsin is? Do they know where they could see Ayers Rock and what language is spoken in Egypt? As computers and the internet and air travel turn our world into a global village, it is more and more important that we teach kids Geography.
Whether your children are homeschooled or attend public or private schools, the chances are you wish they knew more than they do about countries and people and cultures. And they can. Here are a number of easy ways to teach Geography and make Geography fun .
Note: this lens is aimed at helping parents teach kids Geography or kids teaching themselves, but the Geography Computer Activities could be used in classrooms with computers and the Communicate! section would be a great activity to do with a class. For ideas on activities which can be used by teachers, visit Creative Ways to Teach Continents.
And if you are looking specifically to teach your kids US Geography visit States and Capitals Games.
1. Use the news!
An earthquake and tsunami in Japan, unrest in Egypt or even uncle Joe going on vacation to Barbados - all these events give you the opportunity to teach Geography. Grab a globe or an atlas and get your children to look for the places in the news. Children love a challenge, and each time they do it, they will get a little faster.
Of course, this does mean you need a good atlas or globe in your home! Or even a wall map. These items are easy to find at places like Target and Office Depot and don't need to cost a lot.
This is the atlas I use with the middle schoolers I teach geography too. It is a great price so I could afford to buy a number of copies.
2. Play Your Way Around the World
Fun Geography Board and Card Games
Most kids love games. And there are many great games available that are geography based. Your children will be having so much fun playing that they won't even realize they are learning at the same time. For games focused on US geography visit States and Capitals Games. Here are some favorite games to teach world geography:
This is a really clever game. Players take a card and have 10 seconds to memorize the facts on them. A roll of the dice determines which question is asked about that card ... an effortless way to learn about other countries
There are various versions of this game - you can also buy ones based in Africa, USA etc
Twirl a spinner - then see if you can find the country on the board's numbered map. If you land on a "postcard" space, you get bonus points if you can identify the pen pal's country from the clue on the postcard. This was another game my class enjoyed playing. The game is for 2-4 players but I let them play in pairs.
3. Get Gaming!
Fun Geography CD Rom games
Some of my kids favorite computer games are Geography-related - not because they are about geography, but just because they are so much fun. All the ones I am listing were / are played over and over again by my own children.
These are all really fun - your kids won't think about them as 'educational' - yet they are. My favorite is Round the World Challenge and I must admit there was a time when I played it for days on end.
Paddington World Mystery Tour is a great geography game for younger kids and Carmen Sandiego CD Rom games are perfect for older elementary and even middle school.
This is a good one for early elementary kids. They receive clues as to the whereabouts of a parcel - and they move over the map looking for the correct destination. On the way they collect stickers in their online sticker books to remind them of the places they've visited.
This is now out-of-print, so if you find one used somewhere SNAP IT UP. It is by far the most played educational computer game in our house. You travel all over the world following clues. As you get through levels, your tasks become harder. So much fun.
** We just loaded this on a new laptop and to get it to run we needed to use Compatibility Mode (right click on the game icon, select Properties, the Compatibility, then check all boxes). It worked perfectly after we did that!
This is the first Geography game my kids received and they played it into their teens. Kids learn geography as they race around the world solving clues and trying to catch Carmen and her V.I.L.E. Henchmen.
4. Put it Together!
Geography Jigsaw Puzzles
If your family likes jigsaw puzzles, they are a fun way to learn about different states, countries, continents and the world. And working on jigsaw puzzles are also great bonding times as a family. If you have competitive kids, you can also visit the dollar store and buy identical 100 piece map puzzles (I found a USA map puzzle) and make it a race to see who finishes first.
This is a superb puzzle. Each piece is in the shape of the country it represents.
5. Watch a movie! - Movies which teach Geography
Movies are a great way to experience Geography - you get to 'see' the places and people. There are great documentaries that are very entertaining to watch, or you could watch a movie set in a foreign country. We have a Netflix subscription which gives us access at a very low monthly rate to thousands of excellent DVDs - and of course, some of our favorites, are those related to Geography:
This is one of my favorite documentaries - and my kids love it too. Michael Palin isa British comedian who decides to re-trace Phineas Fogg's travels round the globe. And he decides to do it using only transportation that Fogg could have used. The result is a fantastic travel adventure that the whole family will enjoy.
This movie is suitable for all ages and tells the story of 2 children in modern day Iran. This charming story offers a glimpse into their life and culture. It revolves around a young boy who loses his shoes and must share his sister's shoes in order to go to school.
Join Big Bird on this charming adventure in China. You and your kids will learn about Chinese culture and geography - and you will also learn a few words in Mandarin. Fun!
These are from the TV show and are great 25 minute episodes that can be viewed in class or at home. My daughter LOVES them and they are full of not only geography, but also history.
A two year old who knows her world geography!!
This is really cute. The dad gives her the name of a country - and she points to it on the map! Show your kids to encourage them that they can learn to do it too!
6. Online fun - Free Online Geography Games
Try out these fun and free geography activities online
- Kids Geo: Geography Games
This site has games that teach kids the position of continents, countries and capital cities. See which family member can 'place' them in the quickest time. And make sure to also try out the very last game listed which teaches longitude and latitude
- Name the country
This one is SO challenging! See how many countries you can name in a set time period. Great for competition between siblings - and parents!
- Geography Map Games
Scroll down the page and find the links under the heading 'Geography Map Games'. Choose which game you want to play and then see how close you can get to finding the place on the map. If you are close enough - you move to the next level. Otherwise yo
- Where in the World is Mrs Waffenschmidt?
This is not an online game as such but a clue to where Mrs Waffenschmidt is - and a link to the correct answer. This would work well for a parent / teacher to print out and use as a game
- Map Games
There are lots of games on this site that cover every part of the world. Games include crosswords, jigsaw puzzles and even a GeoTournament.
Learn Geography on the go!
There is no better way to learn geography than to see it for yourself. My oldest son will always remember that the Mekong river flows through Laos - because he fell into it! And my youngest knows that the Smoky Mountain National Park is in her home state - because she has visited it.
Explore your town, your state, the neighboring states.
For tips on planning a road trip visit the US Road Trip lens
And consider a trip abroad. It is often far less expensive than you would think. One summer we spent a week at a beautiful Caribbean beach in Honduras. The photo here was taken by my teenage son - yes, it really looked like that!
The week's stay only cost us $1000 for a 3-bedroom apartment and as we cooked for ourselves, food costs were hardly more than at home. If you buy air tickets well enough in advance, they can be surprisingly cheap, often cheaper than internal travel in the USA.
8. Watch the Amazing Race show - Geography on TV
This is my family's favorite TV show. If you aren't familiar with it, teams race around the world, following clues and performing challenges. This is the next best thing to visiting the places yourself. Watch the current series on TV, catch past episodes of the current season or purchase previous seasons. If you are already fans, buy the Amazing Race DVD game. It is great fun to play. And there is also a board game out.
A great way to learn about other countries is to communicate with the people living there. You could look for pen pals for your children. This will give them an in depth knowledge about a specific country. Or you could sign up with Postcrossing and receive postcards from all over the world.
All you do is sign up - and yes, it is free - and you will receive an address in another country. Send them a postcard with your special code on it and when they receive it, they enter your code into the system - and someone sends you a postcard.
Buy a wall map and let your kids use map tacks to mark the spot each postcard comes from. If you have younger children it may be wise to pay a bit more for your map and get a laminated one.And buy a memory box to keep all the postcards in.
10. Read all about it! - Books that teach Geography
There are some excellent children and teen books that are set in foreign countries. If your children enjoy reading, or if you read-aloud to them try some of these suggestions. You will probably find them in your local public library. These are picture books and suitable for ages 4-10.
This is the true story of how a Masai tribal group responded in love and sympathy after 9/11. This is a must read!
11. Sing Geography Songs
Some of my kids enjoyed learning through songs - some didn't so let your children listen to the songs first to see if they will actually learn from them. But if they do enjoy them, it is a very effective way for them to learn.