Why teaching kids map reading skills is important – and how to do it: Guest post by Beatrice Callan


Featured photo: Mailsparky

Worried that your kid cannot read a map? Want to teach children some basic map reading skills quickly and effortlessly? Find out how learning map navigation can be useful for your child’s education and how you can make learning fun.

Map learning

In the era of GPS navigation, the actual map reading skills are becoming a thing of the past, something only a few young people can do. If however, you are terrified by the idea of your kids being pushed around by robots, you may want to teach them some essentials while they are still young. It’s no secret that even educated adults occasionally lose their way simply because Google keeps rerouting their trips. And if you want your child to actually use his head when searching for an optimal road (as opposed to relying on the tech alone), get your toddler sun hat ready — we’re going outside for map reading and land navigation lesson!

Explore your immediate environment

One of the surest ways to start with your child’s map reading lessons is to combine theory with practice. Even though our learning modalities differ, visual learning combined with short field-trips is surely the easiest way to teach your kid navigation essentials quickly. For starters, print out a detailed map of your immediate environment. It can be anything — from several neighboring houses to a larger area, including parks, some shops, etc. As long as your child knows this neighborhood, it’s going to be easy for them to compare the actual reality with a printed map version. Sounds an easy start, right?

Learn to decipher map symbols

Map reading

When your kid understands the basics of how map navigation works, it’s the high time to explain a bit more theory. One of the surest ideas on how to improve map reading scores is to start small. In a way, a map is nothing but a simple drawing with symbols. Some of these symbols — like rivers, pools, etc. will be instinctively understandable for your child. Others, like roads and railways, will need more explaining on your part.

So, once you’ve walked through your neighborhood, come back home to learn some theory. Don’t push it, though. For younger kids, too much info in one day can be overwhelming. So, it’s better to start with your theoretical map reading practice the next day.

Take a longer road trip with a map

The next stage of reading map coordinates is another field trip — this time, a longer one. Take a weekend trip someplace and teach your kid map reading as you drive. If you want to speed this process up a bit, you may also have the child compare online map routes with a printed map version. Just your like your first mini field trip out, this experience is going to be fun, visual, and pretty much self-explanatory. Besides, no matter how useful reading a map for kids maybe, you should not completely discard tech education. Your child will have a chance to compare an online map with a printed one and, eventually, should be able to plan one’s itineraries better.

Turn map reading into a game

Game with maps

There are plenty of ways to make map reading practice fun. You can print out a larger map of your area and mark places you’ve already visited. If you travel with kids, this map can be even larger. Mark the places you’ve already seen with flags, stickers — anything your child likes and can relate to. This will only make the whole experience more rewarding.

Or, you could draw a map of your immediate neighborhood and start a treasure hunt. Such an idea will take a bit of time, patience, and preparation on your side, but it will definitely be exciting for the child. If you’re somewhat a lazy parent (and who can blame you?) and do not want to bury coins in the park, how about asking your child to hide the treasures for you to find them?

Finally, you can always try the easy way out and download a couple of interactive apps. Stack the States, for example (available both on iOS and Android), comes at just three bucks but can teach children plenty of things about map navigation and US geography. Once you’re there, you may want to check out other applications for children. There are plenty of tools that can make you rethink the whole education process and make learning fun.

Do you think map reading skills are vital for children? Or would you rather go with today’s flow and have children rely on tech alone?

Author’s bio: Beatrice Callan is a former elementary school teacher with over 10 years of teaching experience, Beatrice is currently a stay-at-home mom of two and a part-time blogger. She specializes in children’s psychology and education. An active advocate of interactive learning, Beatrice endlessly searches for ways to make education fun and game-like.

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