Children can easily read maps even before they start to read. From the age of two you can introduce them to maps that allow them to picture locations.
A good way to do this is by hiding rewards around the house, for example a treasure hunt of Easter eggs. Take pictures of the different parts of the house, such as the hamster case or the kitchen table (from your child’s eye level or they may not recognise it otherwise) and put them together. Show a picture and let your toddler lead you to the prize.
This is a great way to introduce maps and also helps with imagination, visualisation and processing of information.
Pre School Mapping
As your child grows to school age you can take the literal images out of your maps. You can draw maps that they will easily follow to discover the treasure at the end. Many children first follow a pretend pirate map, trying to reach where X marks the spot.
To do this with your children pick an area that’s not too large. A garden or a small park. Make sure you include big items such as the garden shed, a tree, a pond and of course the boundary. The larger the area the more exact and to scale you need the map to be, so starting small is best.
Let them find the treasure and then swap over, giving them their first taste of how to draw a map. You must follow their directions to discover the hidden bounty.
Skills for Life
Once children have a sound understanding of maps they will encounter them in daily life. From maps to find their way around school or a venue on a trip to maps for local transport links. Every child loves being able to pinpoint the best rides on a theme park map while keen cyclists will be eager to discover where they can take their bike off-road.
Although the art of reading road maps may be dying, a child still needs to learn this as a skill. Driving tests don’t factor in the use of Sat Nav and so to pass the theory a sound knowledge must be learned. Allow your children to have control over the map reading when out on walks first, following an explorer map is actually quite easy for a child.
They will relish the thought of planning a car journey too, of course you can memorise your own route just in case, but getting to grips with the Legend and scale on a road map will give them tools they need to find their way should they ever become lost.
Remember to keep the first maps they draw as they’ll make incredible art when framed and put on your walls.