I have, at various points of my adult life, been accused of not being able to find my way out of a paper bag. It’s true: I seem to have very limited spatial reasoning skills, and I also have a hard time reading maps. Does this describe you as well, or are you good at this type of thing? Regardless of the answer, people do need to learn how to use maps. This week is Read a Road Map Week, and it’s a great time to start teaching your children this valuable skill. Here are some tips:
- Never Eat Soggy Worms. Do you remember that little saying from school? If not, it’s a mnemonic device used to help kids learn the cardinal directions of north, east, south and west. If you’re facing north and you put your arms out to the sides, then your right hand is extended toward the east, your back toward the south and your left hand toward the west. If your child finds soggy worms too distasteful, you could use soggy waffles instead!
- Use maps of places that you visit. When you go to a zoo, aquarium or children’s museum, you are usually given a map of the attraction. Show your child how you can determine where to turn to get to the monkey house, or have him use the map to help you get back to the gift shop. Point out the symbols on the map that show where the restrooms and ATMs are, too.
- Have your child make a map of your neighborhood. Show her how to mark off your house, the houses of your neighbors and any landmarks that are close enough to walk to, such as a school or a corner store. If you don’t have close neighbors or if your neighborhood isn’t walkable, try having her make a map of the playground or the shopping mall, instead.
- Send him on a scavenger hunt. Make a map of your backyard or the local park, and hide some another map where X marks the spot. Have that map lead to another map, and another, and so on, until finally he finds a trinket or special prize.
- Let her be the navigator. Once she is comfortable reading maps of attractions and familiar areas, it’s time to hand her a road map and let her navigate your next trip in town our out of the local area. Even though we usually rely on the GPS or the maps on our smartphones, it’s a good idea to help her learn to use a road map. You never know when you’re going to lose signal or experience a dead battery on your electronic devices!
Are you like me in that you find it hard to read maps and navigate? Or does this skill come naturally to you? Do you have any other ideas for teaching map reading skills to your children?