“Mommy!” he shrieked as he returned home from an outing to the zoo with his father.
“I have a zoo map!”
Timmy couldn’t wait to show me where he had been in the zoo with his daddy. He traced along the paths with his finger and showed me in great detail where all the animals lived.
This wasn’t the beginning of his interest in maps. I’d seen him drawn to maps before. During a recent trip to Vancouver, Timmy spent some time in the hotel room tracing over the roads and bridges on a map of the city. I explained to him what the map key was and where the parks and water were. He made sure to bring it along with him in the car to tell us where we should go.
I wanted to encourage his new interest in maps with a few activities. There are plenty of great map books written for toddlers and preschoolers. Here are some reviewed at Gift of Curiosity. I was able to find some map themed books at our local library to read with the kiddos.
I bought a US map to hang over the kids’ table. The kids love it! At three, Timmy can’t really grasp what the map of the US represents, but he enjoyed putting dots on the map where friends and family lived and places he’s lived and visited. Vera’s even gotten in on the action of learning the states. My husband’s made numerous work-related trips to Hawaii lately. Now everyday when he leaves for work, Vera says, “daddy’s going to Hawaii on a boat”. So cute.
To make it more to his scale and easier for him to grasp and to encourage the love of making his own maps, I printed a satellite photo of our neighborhood using Google Maps.
I sat down next to Timmy and colored in our house. “This is where our house is. And this is the road we live on. And this is the road we walk down to get to the park. And this is where we take your bike to ride”, I said. He got the idea quickly and began asking questions… Where were our neighbors houses? As I pointed he added colored dots and I ran colored lines along the roads.
We made a giant roadmap, too. Timmy really had a great deal of fun with this project. I taped an huge piece of white paper to the table and told him we were making a roadmap. I cut thick strips of black foam and he glued them to the paper. He used a house shaped sponge to add houses with red paint. Adding bushes, ponds and ducks were all his idea. I love how his little mind works. There just had to be ducks in the pond!
Following his interest in maps was easy to do and has been a delight to watch. Just by providing him with a few maps and some drawing materials he’s learned about basic geography, begun to extend his world view, thought about distances and measurement, and practiced some mark making. I wonder where his interests will take us next!