Have map, will travel. Even if your family isn’t planning trips to exotic locales this summer, you can take your child on an adventure using a simple map of the United States or the world. Invest in a basic map (or print one from the Internet) and work together to learn some geography fundamentals.
Use the map to introduce your child to basic geographic concepts. Begin with the idea of location and then move on to ordinal directions and geographic breakdowns like continents, countries, states and cities. Note that maps have a scale and use universally recognized symbols. Explain how to use the key to better understand the details of any map.
Talk about all the different types of maps and how we use them to help us. Encourage your child to point out the maps he sees around town.
Once your future cartographer has mastered some of the basic map concepts, put his newly acquired skills to the test.
Fun with maps
• Map out your neighborhood. The best way to understand maps is to make one yourself. Visit the Web site Mapquest (www.mapquest.com) to create a map from your house to school or a friend’s house within walking distance. Use the "directions" feature and simply enter the two addresses. Print the map and draw a red line to indicate the route. As you walk the route with the directions in hand, note how the map really "comes alive." Another great online map resource is National Geographic (maps.nationalgeographic.com/map-machine) where you can learn about everything from world population to your own town.
• Make a family map. Once your little one gets the hang of it, work together to label familiar locations. Spread a U.S. map out on a cork board and secure the edges with push pins. Make four different lists. Where do we live? Where do our other family members live? Where have I been? Where would I like to go? Assign a color to each category. Cut small triangles out of construction paper in various colors corresponding to each category. Make an orange triangle to indicate where your family lives; red triangles to indicate where grandma, cousins and other out-of-town relatives live; blue triangles to indicate the places your child has been and yellow for the places your family hopes to visit in the future. Secure each triangle to the appropriate location on the map with a push pin or straight pin (use common-sense caution with the pins). Don’t forget to make a map "key" indicating which color represents the four different categories. Modify the map as your family visits new destinations or adds to the list of places you hope to visit on future vacations.
• Create a treasure map. Pretend you are on a search for lost treasure and create an old-fashioned map to show the way. Begin with a blank, white piece of paper. Paint it with very diluted brown paint to give it an antique look. After it has dried, crumple it a few times to make the map look at least 100 years old. Draw whatever detail you would like: pirate ships, palm trees, mountain ranges, forests and rivers. You could even find pictures on the Internet to use on your map. Don’t forget that "X" marks the spot where the treasure is hidden! For more authenticity, roll up your treasure map and put it in an empty bottle.
For other map-related activities and printable maps and worksheets, visit www.enchanted
• A U.S. or world map
• Cork board or other soft surface
• Push or straight pins
• Construction or other heavy-weight paper in a variety of colors
• Pen, crayons or markers
• Plain, white paper
• Brown watercolor paint
• Paint brush
• Art supplies to draw detail on map
• Clean, empty bottle (optional)