When I was little, I loved maps (I still do). As a mom of 4 little kids, I try to instill the same curiosity and yearning to learn geography in my kids. I recently saw a great idea on Grasping for Objectivity, that had the kids polling friends and family to see which states they had visited. I think this is a great activity for kids- whether they are just beginning to learn geography, or are experts. It was a concrete way for my kids to learned more about the states positions in relation to one another, to compare sizes of states, to talk about distances, and even to visualize where we had driven across the country. What a fun activity!!!!
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First, decide if you’d like to do the whole world, or just your country. We decided to start with just the United States- but I envision us doing this with a world map in the future (especially in our family of global travelers!). Look at google images for blank maps. Here are some examples for blank world maps, US maps, Africa maps, Asia maps, Australia maps, Europe maps, and Latin America maps. I love these blank maps!!!
We used a placemat that had a US map that was already labelled, for the kids to copy and transfer the names of the states onto their blank map. This reinforced reading, writing, and of course spelling- while giving them practice on the geographical locations.
Although they were just beginning to learn geography, my 7 year olds were able to do it by themselves, and my 4 year olds just wrote the first letter of each state. They were really concentrating- the kitchen was actually silent as they worked on this (which never happens in my house). They liked using the permanent sharpies, normally saved for mommy, and they loved when they would recognize a place: “Oh New York, where Tia Didi lives…” “Oh yeah, Drew lives in Missouri.”
Once they filled in all of the states and begin to learn geography of the states, the fun part began. We skyped with Grandma and Grandpa, and Tia Mimi, and marked a color-coded dot in every state they had visited. This took a while (but was a great learning experience): Grandma would call out a state, and then everyone would have to find it on their map and mark it. I love when kids take polls because it pushes them to be an active participant in the conversation, and to pay attention to the details they are hearing so they can record the answers. We used the data to talk about who had been to the most states, and which states/regions were the most visited. We all decided that we must go to the north and northwest! Next time you have a rainy afternoon, print out a map and have your kids poll your family.