There is something SO MUCH FUN about maps. Even in the age of GoogleMaps and smart phones I think it is so important for kids to learn how to use a map.
Maps are everywhere and learning how to use them is a life skill we still use far more than I think many of us realize.
When we opened our Little Passports kit for the first time it was the large, colorful map that our kids were most excited about. Our twins quickly unfolded it on the floor, their eyes wide, as they asked me to help them find where we live and where their grandparents live. That map still hangs, well loved, in the middle of their bedroom wall 3 years later.
Below are our favorite ideas for learning with and about maps.
affiliate links are included below
8 Playful Ways to Teach Kids About Maps
GO places + learn about Maps
1. Learning about Maps on the Go
Maps are a natural learning experience to integrate into learning on the go.
Adults frequently use maps to find things, navigate to and through spaces, and more. Our son in particular has noticed this and loves to take advantage of maps at places like the zoo or nature trails to help navigate our way.
Some tips for using maps with kids:
- Point them out when they are displayed. Often they are placed at adult eye level and children might miss them.
- Grab an extra map for your child to hold and use when a paper one is available.
- Crouch down and help them read the map. Ask them where they want to go and then help them find the route with their finger.
- Continue as you navigate through the space if they are interested.
- Use direction words when you are driving or walking to increase familiarity with the vocab. “We are turning left” or “We need to go North to get to the library,” etc.
“I noticed about maps you have to look carefully to know where you are
+ where you have to go.” – J. Age 3.
2. More Learning about Maps Through Adventure Ideas
Disneyland Maps Display from Crafty Mom in ME
Sketch an Outdoor Map with Kids from Frog Mom
How Maps Change Case Study from Boston Kid Friendly
READ books about Maps
3. Our Favorite Books about Maps
1. Follow the Line Around the World by Laura Ljungkvist
I love all of the Follow the Line books. This is a great introduction to a study about the world. Travel around the world and get little tidbits about places from Greenland to Mexico to New York. 3+
2. Follow That Map! A First Book of Mapping Skills by Scot Ritchie
This is my favorite kind of book – the ones that inspire adventure. This nonfiction book is full of information about maps, interactive, and inspires mapping activities – what more could you want? 3+
3. Henry’s Map by David Elliot
This is a story about a very tidy little pig. He comes up with a plan to make the farm yard more orderly, it involves a map. 2+
4. National Geographic Our World by National Geographic Society
After borrowing this from the library for a couple of weeks it is now on our wishlist. This atlas is such a great resource for young children. 3+
5. Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney
This book follows a girl from her room to her house to her neighborhood as maps show the world getting bigger and bigger. A wonderful introduction to maps and our place in the larger world. 3+
6. Mapping Penny’s World by Loreen Leedy
This book does a great job of exploring maps on different scales from a map of a bedroom to a map of the world. 3+
More Children’s Books About Maps
Map Books for Young Explorers from Brain Power Boy
Map Books for Children from The Jenny Evolution
PLAY and Learn with Map Activities
Obviously reading maps is one of the major skills children are working on acquiring when working with maps. Here are some simple ways we have been working on this skill.
4. Maps and Train Play
As I described above, with a little prompt our twins drew a map during the planning stage of a new track layout. They drew the track and then pointed out to me where they wanted to various spots such as stations and docks. Then we propped up the map on a ledge and referred to it while we built the track.
5. Maps to Find Snack
This has been a favorite activity the past two weeks. I hide their snack somewhere in the house and then draw them each a map. When they come down after Quiet Time they use their map to navigate the house and find their snack. They love this activity and the repetition is offering plenty of experience reading maps.
This X Marks the Spot Treasure Map from Teach Me Mommy is similar!
6. Drawing Maps
With our twins this was a self initiated activity. One of the benefits of having art and drawing materials available to your child daily and having extending time for free play is that they are able to create how and when they want.
The above picture was taking during one of our afternoons. Our kids were playing with pretend animals and he decided to draw a map of their zoo.
Another example is the train map pictured below. I asked if they wanted to make a map of their train tracks before they created a new layout. Simple prompts and suggestions like that can encourage map drawing which is a wonderful pre-literacy activity.
7. Printables Pack
If you are looking for more preschool maps unit activities, a pack of printables that I used with my twins is available on Teachers Pay Teachers. It has a literacy activity, measurement activity, original song about maps, and more. For details or to purchase, click here.
8. Even More Play Ideas
- Maps Skills for Kids from Schooling Monkey
- Continents and Countries Olympic Sort from Planet Smarty Pants
- 3 Free Puzzles to Make Learning Continents Fun from Books and Giggles
- Map Activities for Kids: France, England, Ireland from The Natural Homeschool
- Travel Maps for Kids Printables from CraftCreateCalm
- Types of Maps from Artsy Momma
- Using Maps with Art from Our Daily Craft
- Making a Salt Dough Map from Tales of Education at Home
Since we started learning more about maps we have been finding them more and more in our environment as we explore. The photo above is from the Mississippi Children’s Museum. My daughter loved reading the map of Mississippi, finding us, and placing all of the people around the state.
Want More Simple Play at Home Ideas?
- Halloween X-Ray Hand Craft from The Gingerbread House
- X Marks the Spot Treasure Hunt from Teach Me Mommy