I just finished reading Why Geography Matters by Harm de Blij and I realized that even though I’ve always had an interest in the world of maps, not everyone shares this love and is often grossly lacking in knowledge of the subject.
Geography isn’t even usually taught in schools these days, so it’s no wonder that late-night television shows have a field day interviewing people on the street who have no clue that Africa isn’t a country!
The truth is, it can be difficult to nail down exactly what geography is. We hear the term and might picture different countries, but geography isn’t just all about social science. While the term does cover foreign cultures, it’s mainly focused on the natural and human world.
This means maps and people and economics and politics and even just having a sense of your place in the world. It covers physical features and languages, religions, climate, traditions and even transportation!
So, if you want your kids to be able to point out the difference between Austria and Australia on a map, or don’t want them to have a narrow view of the world, or want them to learn to think by asking questions, observing and appreciating the world around us and even naturally relate where they travel and what they experience to history, then you’ll want to include geography in your homeschool.
But just how should you go about doing this with a preschooler? How can you begin to broaden your child’s horizons in a natural way that is fun and seems like play? Try some of these suggestions:
- Build geographical vocabulary while out and about by using specific terms instead of vague generalities. This is easier to do if your child is already familiar with positional words. (We need to head east to go to Grammy and Papa’s house, which means we turn left at the light.)
- Make plenty of maps available to your child. Do you have a AAA membership? If so, collect an assortment of free maps for your kids to play with and explore!
- Fill your home with puzzles. These develop general spatial awareness and if the puzzles feature maps, then it makes it easy for little ones to feel and see where a place is in relation to others.
- Connect topics kids love with maps. Kids especially love learning about different animals, habitats and biomes, so make sure to relate these things back to where they are located in the world.
- Take a walk around your neighborhood and see if your child can recognize his or her own home. If so, increase the challenge by taking a particular route and asking your child to get you back home by leading the way.
- Go for a hike and have your child follow a trail map along the way. The more exposure your child has to maps, the better her map skills will be.
- Send some mail. This helps a child see that not only can things like people and animals travel geographically, but thoughts and ideas, too. A winning activity for an older preschooler is to read the book Flat Stanley and then send his own Flat Stanley creation off in the mail to visit different parts of the world.
- Help your children create backyard maps. They don’t even have to be able to understand geographical terms yet to do this. They can easily draw your house, the perimeter fence and the big tree in the corner of the yard.
- Grab some cheap photo albums and photos of your friends and family that are spread out over the globe. Not only will this help to develop a connection with them for your child, but it will mean so much more to learn about Wyoming if that’s where Aunt Sara lives.
- Talk about your travel experiences. Do you have photo albums from your own travels? If so, look through them with your child – and even if you don’t, spend plenty of time with a map or globe telling your child all about the different trips you, or your spouse, or even the grandparents have taken over the years. Italy suddenly became a very exciting place to learn about when Gv heard that not only had I been there several times, but that Daddy had lived there for five years!
- Point out where different things you encounter each day come from. Maybe you had Florida oranges for breakfast, then got dressed in clothes made in Malaysia, played with a toy made in China and then had pretzels from Germany (we love Aldi!) for a snack.
- Kids love scavenger and treasure hunts. Occasionally create one of these for your children in the backyard. Directions can be simple (Go out the porch door and take ten steps toward the back fence.) to more complex (Exit the porch and walk to the southwestern corner of the fence.) Hide more clues along the way and have them find a favorite toy from their room (You rescued the princess!) or a new treat at the end.
- Travel. I should have listed this one first, but if you’re able to, there’s just nothing that tops family trips to see the world. You don’t even have to cross an ocean to have a huge impact on your kids. We continue to be amazed at how much our road trip this summer affected Gv. A day doesn’t go by without her relating something back to our trip. You can read all about our frugal fun in my Epic Family Road Trip
- Expose your kids to the sights, sounds and flavors of the world without even leaving your house ! You can do this by exploring books, music, food, crafts, art, dance, costumes, games and sports from around the world. We’re huge fans of this method of travel around here with our Passport to Fun trips. If you haven’t read about one of our 24 trips around the world before, then be sure to check out my most recent post on our Scandinavia trip
- Gather a group of friends (or your homeschool co-op) and hold your own Cultural Day! We had a blast with ours this past fall and you can read all the details here at How to Hold an Epic Group Cultural Day for Your Kids.
- Add a bit of diversity into your Christmas celebrations. We just finished up our fun with Our Shepherd’s Amazing Journey Around the World. Even if you don’t want to join in with the shepherd aspect of this adventure, then you can just grab a beloved stuffed animal or doll to travel around and experience how different countries celebrate Christmas!
- Sign up for a Little Passports subscription. I reviewed this fun service here and if only it fit into our budget, we would love to continue the fun all year long! I’ve actually been developing my own little version of this over the past few months. Keep your eyes peeled for news of it on my blog because I’m hoping to finalize my frugal, DIY version later this year!
- Declare a geography week and make everything you do revolve around the topic. This is just what we did in our Latticed Learning time this week. You can read all about the books, music, videos and activities we explored in my Latticed Learning – Geography post today!
See? Don’t all these ideas sound like fun to you? It’s easy to bring geography into a preschooler’s play and help establish their familiarity with the subject from an early age!
Have you introduced any geographical fun into your preschooler’s days before? I’d love to hear! Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.