Teaching kids about geography can be challenging because of the abstract concepts. It’s hard for kids to grasp the concepts of maps- but that doesn’t mean we should start young. In this lesson, parents and teachers can use a “bumpy” map to teach geography to three types of learners: visual learners, aural learners, and tactile (or kinesthetic learners).
This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support!
Teaching geography by using a raised relief map, we can reach visual learners, aural learners (learning by hearing information), and kinesthetic learners.
Visual learners will enjoy the color scheme that indicates elevation and land features, from green, low-lying areas to the highest mountains in red and then climbing higher to white and purple.
Those who are aural learners will benefit from your narration of the map, explaining the features as they run their fingers along the cordilleras. Some of these auditory learners can retain even more information if they close their eyes while listening to you explain what they are feeling with their fingers.
Kids who are kinesthetic or tactile learners will of course acquire the information better by being able to run their fingers along the mountain ranges and down into the valleys of the bumpy vinyl map. No matter which type of learner, by provoking multiple senses we better understand the information, and remember it later. I bought this colorful, raised, physical map
as a way to learn about geography, by engaging my kids’ tactile sense and visual sense.
Even very small children can follow a map lesson, as you adjust it age appropriately. The first time we looked at the map, I talked about what the different colors represent and showed them the oceans and the different continents while they ran their hands across the world.
Using a Relief Map with Young Children
- Find the highest mountains using your fingers, with your eyes closed. Now find them without touching the map, with your eyes open. Try to guess which is the tallest mountain. Most of the tallest mountains in the world are in the Himalayas in Asia. They are located by Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Bhutan, China, India and Nepal. The highest mountain is Mt. Everest, and lots of mountain climbers try to climb to the summit every year.
- Locate the longest mountain range with your eyes closed. You probably felt the Andes Mountains running along the west coast of South America. This is the longest cordillera above sea level. Can you open your eyes and find the underwater mountains splitting the Atlantic Ocean in half? This range then curves under Africa, goes off the map to the right (east) and then through the Pacific up to North America? This is the Ocean Ridge, and is the longest mountain range on Earth- but it is under the oceans, so we cannot feel it because the map references sea level as “flat.”
- Look at Antarctica, on the bottom of the world. Don’t be fooled by the white, it is actually the highest land mass. Because this is a relief map, white doesn’t signify snow but rather a high altitude. Even though the white doesn’t mean snow, the continent is in fact 98% solid ice and is the coldest, windiest place on the planet!
- Trace your finger along the equator from east to west. The land that this imaginary line crosses contains the greatest biodiversity on Earth, and the greatest concentration of rainforests (point out Brazil, Congo and Indonesia). Talk about the weather, flora and fauna in the rainforests at the equator versus those at your latitude.
- The last thing we talked about on our first day at the map was where we lived. I had the kids close their eyes, and I placed their finger over out city; “Are there mountains, hills or lowlands here?” Once they explored with their fingers, I had them open their eyes and we talked about the physical features of our town, our state, our region of the US, our country, and then our continent.
- We all have a place in this world- yet many kids cannot locate their hometown on a map! Kids love being able to figure something out, and then confidently answer questions about it- yet geography is not being taught enough in schools. Point out some countries that have significance to your family (Auntie Char is from the Philippines, your teacher was born in India, we went on vacation to Mexico). Ask the kids to follow a route to that country- what would they cross over in an airplane? Could they take a boat/train there? How close/far is it from the equator? Do they guess that it would have warmer or cooler weather than your hometown?
Have fun introducing the world map, and refer to it often as you introduce activities from around the world. You might be surprised how quickly kids are able to locate different place around the map!