August 6, 2015

Reading a map is becoming extinct with a growing reliance on technology such as GPS style apps and navigation devices to find our way.

Taking the time to teach your child how to read a map will be give them a start on important life skills. Reading, maths and geography skills are exercised and builds spatial awareness, visual literacy and even independence. These skills are needed in everyday situations and will be handy when using public transport, travelling, exploring national parks, understanding weather patterns and much more.

Royal Institute of Navigation (RIN) president Roger McKinlay says “It is concerning that children are no longer routinely learning at home or school how to do anything more than press ‘search’ buttons on a device to get anywhere. RIN director Peter Chapman-Andrews agrees and said “technology must not replace thinking”. Read full article here

Not only do maps assist in skill development but they encourage engagement with your surroundings and do not rely on batteries or signal. You are encouraged to collaborate with the physical world such as reading a sign, recognising the shop on the corner or identifying the big mountain in the distance. Observing and engaging leaves memories and knowledge of the world around you.

We found some great advice on Teach Kids How that you can read below of fun yet very practical ways to teach your child how to read a map throughout different stages of their childhood.

Little children can be prepared for learning to read a map by becoming familiar with directional words used in daily conversation. Words and phrase such as above and below, to the right and to the left, farther and nearer, here and there, can help your child with the concept of location. Looking up at the night sky and seeing the sky and moon will show them that some things are very far away. The relationship between the sun and the earth can be demonstrated by observing day and night and the weather.

Main points to address:

  • Use directional words in everyday life.
  • Let your child observe the stars, moon, and the movement of the sun.
  • Young children think concretely and will have a hard time with the concept of a map as the representation of an area.

Grades K-3rd
Young school age children can start to read simple maps at about age 7 or 8. Because abstract thinking does not emerge until this age, it is rather difficult to convey the concept of representing real places on flat paper with diagrams and symbols.One of the best ways to introduce map reading is to create a map of a familiar area together. You may want to map out your backyard, a small park or your child’s bedroom. Keeping things simple and not being fussy about lack of proportion and perspective is best. Every map needs a key or legend. Creating symbols that look like objects in the area you are mapping will help your child make the conceptual leap. For example: the symbol for a swing set could be a small drawn swing set. You may want to display your map as a reminder of the components in a physical map. This is a good time to introduce other simple maps, such as maps of a neighbourhood, mall or school building.

Main points to address:

  • Reading a map requires the ability to think abstractly, which occurs between ages 7 to 9.
  • Introduce maps by making one of a familiar area with your child.
  • Use simple symbols to make a key.
  • Take some time to notice maps as you travel.

Grade 4-6th
Older school children generally love maps and are eager to use them. When hiking, find a trail guide and plan your trip with it. While vacationing, trace the route you will take from one place to the next. If someone will be visiting, find the place on a map they will be coming from. Kids this age can begin to understand a scale of miles or kilometres. This is also an abstract concept that will come gradually with use. Floor plans are maps too. They give your child a chance to try designing a room, house or other structure.

Main Points to Address:

  • Plan your vacation or a hike with the aid of a map. Let your child help.
  • Introduce a distance scale, but go slowly.
  • Floor plans drawn on graph paper are fun to design.
  • Your child may want to design a map for a treasure or scavenger hunt.

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