Maps are an amazing entity. They charm us like talismans, fascinate us like a kaleidoscope and unveil secrets like a personal diary. They not only help kids learn spatial skills, but enhance their curiosity about places and its history. Learning to read maps has also been linked to success in maths as well as science. Kids’ language skills also get enhanced as they talk about objects in terms of spatial relationships.
But the question is: When should kids be introduced to maps?
The answer: Now!
No kid is too young or too old to hold off the fascination of maps. The secret lies in how we introduce it to them.
Don’t go pointing continents to your kid the first time they set their eyes on a map. Start with your home. Ask your kid to imagine how her room would look like if she were a fairy watching from above. Then draw it for her. Let her tell you where her bed is and where her toys are.
As you decide the things to be included in the map, describe their location using words like “near”, “far”, “next to” and “between”. For example, teach her to say, “The bookshelf is next to the window” or “The dining table is far from the TV”.
Storybooks like Winnie the Pooh include a map of its fictional Hundred Acre Wood. Together, point out where Winnie the Pooh lives, how far is he from Piglet’s home. Spot the sand pit where Roo loves to play and discover Christopher Robin’s house. Do the same for other stories she adores. Let her contemplate about how all these places play a role in the story.
With the help of a compass, label the walls of your home as North, South, East and West. Explain to her or better still, demonstrate (with the help of a yellow smiley ball) how the sun rises each day from the east, moves across the sky and then sets in the west.
Let your kid close her eyes and count to ten while you hide her favourite toy. Make sure your walls are labelled North, South, East and West. Now help her find her toy by giving hints such as – “walk five steps towards north. Now three steps east”. The giggles erupting from this game will be worth all the effort!
Once she has mastered the skills of “near”, “far”, “next to” and “between” and understands that a map is a miniature of a really big object, introduce her to the World Map. It could be in the form of a globe or a jigsaw puzzle. Start with marking the directions North, South, East and West and then point out the continents, the north and south poles, and the oceans. Talk about how there is snow on the north and south poles; that the penguins live in Antarctica; that Russia is the world’s largest country, etc.
Pack your bags and take your kid to places she has seen on the map. Talk about the animals and birds found there, the culture of that place, the kind of weather, the people, the food they eat, the festivals they celebrate. Get, Set, Go Globetrotter!
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