Running Errands? Teach your children how to read and make a map.

November 5, 2008

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Do you need an idea to help cram more learning time into all the busy work or errands you run during the day?  Here’s a great and easy idea:  Teach about maps.

1.  Use Google Earth to teach the concept of maps with this amazing software program you can download and install for free.  My kids love ‘flying’ anywhere in the world and then zooming down to street level to explore.  Give them a location to find, like their own house, and watch how quickly they learn to identify continents, states, cities, and on down until they find their own street.

2.  Buy a compass:  Get an inexpensive compass for each child and introduce the concepts of north, south, east, and west as you are driving in the car.  Who knows, you may improve your own sense of direction.

3.  Make a neighborhood map and have fun learning about some of the following concepts:  

  • Taking measurements:  Discuss ways to measure your neighborhood like using the odometer, counting their own steps, or a measuring wheel.  A fun idea is to make your own measuring wheel using a stroller, bike, or something with a wheel.   Make a visible line on the wheel, measure the circumference and do a bit of math to measure distances.  
  • Scale:  Once you have measurements, teach how to reduce them to a scale that will fit on graph paper.
  • Beginning geometry:  Introduce graph paper, angles and curves to get an accurate map.
  • Legend:  Introduce symbols to represent items on your map.  Have kids practice observation skills and keep a list of things they notice in the neighborhood.  This provides ideas for their map legend.  Ideas include symbols for houses, trees, fire hydrants, businesses, etc.
  • Art and creativity in color coding and illustrating their maps will make the project fun a well-rounded learning experience.

4.  Map your destinations.

  • Next time you need to run errands, think ahead and give your child the assignment to map the location, print a map, and then direct you as you drive.  Start simple and close by, which is perfect for many of your everyday errands.  Use free mapping sites like Yahoo, Google, or Mapquest.  What a fun way to learn what makes up an address, their home address, the names of streets, etc. 

So, next time you hop in the car and wonder how you’ll get all your schooling done, pull out a map and let your kids enjoy learning where they are in the world.

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