Geography for Little People
by Lisa Russel
Wonderful ways to teach you preschooler or kindergardner some basic geography!
Geography for Preschoolers
Use directional words like left and right in connection with real situations. "Your cup is on the left." "Let's turn right at the stop sign." "We'll walk two blocks, then turn left at the bus stop"
Playing circle games like "hokey pokey" help to teach right and left. Tie a ribbon or make a dot on the shoe of the right (or left) side, and reference both sides. Reward the child for remembering which side was which.
Begin introducing concepts of north, south, east and west by noticing how sunny the patio is in the afternoon, or how every day after lunch, we must close the blinds in the kitchen. Every morning when we wake up, the sun is shining into the bathroom window, and every night when we eat dinner, the sun has moved into the dining room window.
Children this age may become quite adept at using maps. Let them help make a "fire escape map" of the house, or "treasure maps." My oldest once made a "Where is Emilee" map and waited 15 minutes while her father looked for her after work, it was so cute!
Use sidewalk chalk to make a map of your neighborhood on your patio or driveway. A child can pretend to visit friends, get the mail, or whatever else they do when they walk around the real neighborhood.
Keep pointing out symbols you use in daily life, like traffic lights and store directories.
If you visit a tall building, make a point of looking down onto the city- mention how easy it would be to make a map from here, and how small everything looks below. When you go back down, point out those things that looked so tiny- now they're HUGE.
Planning a trip? Look at the map with your child and point out rivers you may be crossing, or mountain ranges you might drive along. Be sure to point out these things AGAIN when you're on the road.
If you visit National parks or hiking areas, be sure to let the child have their own "trail map" many park rangers give these away for free. If your child is really "following" the map, have them draw interesting things they see along the way.
Puzzle maps are fun for children this age. On a personal note, we had two maps of the United States in puzzle form when my daughter was small, one of which we felt terrible even GIVING away. The outlines of the pieces didn't match the borders of the state- making it seem like Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire were all one state. Delaware was actually a part of Pennsylvania and Alaska and Hawaii were Siamese twins. (And they shared an island in the middle of Mexico.) If you must open the box in the store, it is worth it, because good puzzle maps are hard to find.
Encourage children to use their senses to explore their world. "The road is made of hard concrete, so cars can drive on it." "The grass is soft and wet- worms and bugs like to live that way"
What animals do you find in your neighborhood? Pigeons and squirrels, or lizards and coyotes? What do they eat?
Where do they make their homes?
Look at a large outdoor thermometer and talk about how the temperature affects our day. You might want to make a daily chart, eventually showing that each sunny day has a warm temperature, cloudy days are a bit cooler, and so on.
Watch the weather channel on TV or clip the weather maps from the newspaper. Monitor cloud qualities and formations, Will it rain? What do the clouds look like? Are they soft and feathery or thick and puffy, are they white or grey or black?
Keep an eye on local construction sites, how is the earth moved, what do they build first, who can guess what it's going to be? What materials are they using?
If you live in a n urban area, visit a farm, and vice versa. People use space differently and kids this age are often fascinated by that!copyright 2000 Lisa Russell