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Helping Your Child Learn Geography: Part 2

Directions
To help young children learn location, make sure they know the colour and style of the building in which they live, the name of their town, and their street address. Then, when you talk about other places, they have something of their own with which to compare.
  • Children need to understand positional words. Teach children words like 'above' and 'below' in a natural way when you talk with them or give them directions. When picking up toys to put away, say, 'Please put your toy into the basket on the right' or, 'Put the green t-shirt into the drawer.' Right and left are as much directional terms as north, south, east, and west. Other words that describe such features as colour, size, and shape are also important.
  • Show your children north, south, east, and west by using your home as a reference point. Perhaps you can see the sun rising in the morning through a bedroom window that faces east and setting at night through the westerly kitchen window. Reinforce their knowledge by playing games. Once children have their directional bearings, you can hide an object, for example, then give them directions to its location: 'two steps to the north, three steps west ....'
  • Use pictures from books and magazines to help your children associate words with visual images. A picture of a desert can stimulate conversation about the features of a desert - arid and barren. Work with your children to develop more complex descriptions of different natural and cultural features.

Maps
Put your child’s natural curiosity to work. Even small children can learn to read simple maps of their school, neighbourhood, and community. Here are some simple map activities you can do with your children.
  • Go on a walk and collect natural materials such as acorns and leaves to use for an art project. Map the location where you found those items.
  • Create a treasure map for children to find hidden treats in the garden or inside your home. Treasure maps work especially well for birthday parties.
  • Look for your city or town on a map. If you live in a large city or town, you may even be able to find your street. Point out where your relatives or your children’s best friends live.
  • Find the nearest park, lake, mountain, or other cultural or physical feature on a map. Then, talk about how these features affect your child’s life. Living near the ocean may make your climate moderate, fields may provide an open path for high winds, and mountains may block some weather fronts.
  • By looking at a map, your children may learn why they go to a particular school. Perhaps the next nearest school is on the other side of a park, a busy street, or a large hill. Maps teach us about our surroundings by portraying them in relation to other places.
  • Before taking a trip, show your children a map of where you are going and how you plan to get there. Look for other ways you could go, and talk about why you decided to use a particular route. Maybe they can suggest other routes.


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