Inside: 5 engaging map activities for 4 to 8 year olds, great for kindergarten through to grade 2 students.
Whether you’re a teacher participating in distance learning or teaching your own kids at home, now is the perfect time to introduce your young learners to maps! While right now, their world may be small, learning geography can start at home or school, within their own space, and then over time expand to include the whole wide world.
5 Fun Introductory Map Activities for 4-8 Year Olds
The following introductory map activities will help your children learn geography by reading, making their own maps and exploring the world digitally!
1. Read All About Maps
Children’s books are such a great way to introduce children to new concepts. Exploring books like the ones listed below together with young geographers can familiarize them with the varieties of maps available, and the terminology used therein.
Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney is a bright, colourful book provides a terrific look into geographic concepts, introducing the ideas at a level perfect for the young learner. The story starts with a little girl mapping her room and then expanding where she is located in relation to her neighborhood, city, state, country, and the world!
My Map Book by Sara Fanelli features a series of unique maps children can relate to – from a map of my day to a map of my bedroom… and even a map of my tummy!
Another incredible book about maps and geography is Geography from A to Z: A Picture Glossary. This book uses an alphabet format to introduce children to rigorous vocabulary words like isthmus, gulch, and knoll while exploring bright, detailed images and fully-labeled maps.
Want more adventure? Read Follow That Map!: A First Book of Mapping Skills that employs a search-and-find technique to take the reader on a journey to find a lost pet. Children enjoy making choices in real-life scenarios!
Looking for picture books about specific counties? Check out our related article, Around the World in 40 Books.
Learning about the varieties of maps is fascinating in itself, and it is often a map that inspires a child’s interest in learning geography. The types of maps most commonly used include political, physical, topographical, climatic, and road maps.
You can find a great introduction to the most common types of maps on the National Geographic website, and a number of useful videos discussing the uses of different types of maps in our collection of Geography Videos for Kids.
Comparing the same area on different types of maps is an interesting exercise to explore – start out with maps of your local area. You can look for your street or neighbourhood on a road map or in a street directory, on a tourist map and on Google maps. Then zoom out to a map of your town, district or state and compare how your lo
Look for opportunities to use maps in meaningful ways. You might plan a dream vacation or adventure with a physical or political map, reference a topographical map before a hiking excursion, and check out a weather map as part of your everyday routine.
You can find a free world map to download and colour in our post, 7 Fun Geography Resources for Teaching Young Children About the World.
3. Use videos to reinforce map and geography concepts
Videos provide children with a great opportunity to hear and see more about maps and there are some real gems available on YouTube.
Start out by looking at basic geography and math concepts with this easy to follow “How to Make a Map” video, which revises basic map types, directions, parts of a map and map symbols, and also invites children to make a map of their own (which ties in nicely with Activity #4 below).
4. Have your kids map their homes
When having conversations with kids about maps and studying the world around them, they may think of maps in terms of treasure maps and scavenger hunts! And what matters most to a young child is their immediate world. Creating a map of just that spot is a great way to get started in drawing maps of your own.
You can start by creating a map of his or her bedroom. Using a plain sheet of paper (or a piece of graph paper), draw out the perimeter of the bedroom. Then place each of the items where they go – you might include the bed, dresser, toybox, closet, door, windows, and more. Explain that the map is like a picture of the bedroom taken from above, where everything is smaller.
Once you’ve mapped out the bedroom, you might move on to the classroom, their entire house, or even the schoolyard. Or use the map you’ve made to create a treasure hunting mapping game.
5. Go digital
It’s so important for kids to learn about traditional paper based maps, but Google Maps also have their place.
Using Google Maps, children can find their own neighbourhood, street and house or school. They might like to plan an imaginary vacation and virtually visit the places on their itinerary, or visit places they’ve studied in class or discovered in books. Google Earth allows young learners to explore the world with a simple address or destination to search.
School age children might be interested in exploring these Online Geography Games to learn even more about the world.