Studying maps helps kids understand the world.

Mapping Activities for Preschoolers

by Shara JJ Cooper

Maps aren't the easiest things to master. They are impossible to fold, so what is a tot supposed to do with one? Well, there is plenty that you can do with a map. Particularly if you use a simplified map. You don't want one that is full of grids, side streets and notations. But a map with clear, defining lines can help your child get a sense of his world and surroundings.

1. Puzzles

Print a puzzle map of a location, such as the United States, your state with a map of the counties, a continent or other country. Color the map, giving each piece a different color if possible. Cut out the map and practice putting it back together. Talk about the different locations as you do. For example, "We live in Texas, but Auntie Marie lives in Florida." Find the pieces where different family members might live. If you are working on a more obscure location, try naming what the area is known for, such as "These chocolates are from Belgium."

2. Locating

Look at a map of your neighborhood and find your house, your child's school, the grocery store, Grandma's house and any other key locations. Have your child follow the roads to get to each location. He can do this with his finger or a crayon. If you take a short cut from one place to the next, you can find this on the map and show how it's not on a road. Ask him which way he wants to go the next time you walk or bike somewhere.

3. History

Look at an old map of a location and the current map and talk about how it has changed. Ask your tot how he thinks the maps might change in the future. Look at a map of prehistoric North America compared to a current one. Your tot will be surprised that land can move. Show him a map of the United States when there were only 13 states compared to the modern map of 50 states.

4. Imagination

Give your tot a piece of paper and some colored pencils and ask him to make a map of his own unique country. If he has trouble, give him ideas about what he might want. He'd need fresh water, so lakes and rivers are necessary. He can add in forests, mountains and cities, too. If he loves the project, try making a diorama with play dough.

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