It’s not always easy to learn how to read a map, especially when you’re looking at unfamiliar places. To learn the basics of reading and making maps, it can be helpful for your child to begin with somewhere she knows well.
Making a map of the neighborhood gives you and your child both the chance to explore your neighborhood in depth and find a way to make sense of maps.
- Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney
- As the Crow Flies: A First Book of Maps by Gail Hartman,
- Follow That Map!: A First Book of Mapping Skills by Scot Ritchie.
What Your Child Will Learn (or Practice)
- Observation skills
- Data recording skills
- Creating and reading a map key
- Map-related vocabulary
- Clipboard and blank paper
- Pencil and markers
- A large piece of poster board
- Read one of the suggested books or look at with your child. Then, talk about the elements of the map, naming them and defining them along the way.
- Help your child divide a piece of paper into three columns. Title them: Streets, Landmarks, and Other.
- Ask your child to write the name of your street and the names of nearby streets in the correct column. It’s OK if he doesn’t know them, you’ll get there.
- Have him write any nearby and memorable landmarks in the correct column. Even something as simple as the tree everyone in the neighborhood knows can be in this column.
- Have him write down things like stop signs, places that are unique to your neighborhood, or things that are important to him in the “Other” column. This might be his best friend’s house or things like a favorite store.
- Put that piece of paper and a blank piece on a clipboard. Take a pencil with you, too. Before you begin to walk the neighborhood, stand in front of where you live and help your child sketch a basic outline of the blocks in your neighborhood.
- Begin by drawing a large box with a line to represent your street. Label the line with your street name, mark an X in the approximate area of your house or building and draw lines for the connecting and nearby streets.
- Take a leisurely walk through the neighborhood, giving your child a chance to write street names and mark landmarks on the draft of the map. When you get home, look at the map with your child and help him to fill in types of terrain or anything else he may have missed.
Drawing a Detailed Map
- Discuss with your child the walk you took and whether it was hard to picture the whole neighborhood during that walk. Introduce him to the concept of a “bird’s eye view,” or being able to see the area as though he is flying above it.
- Give him the piece of posterboard and explain he can use it to make a “bird’s eye view” map of the neighborhood. Explain that the paper is still not big enough to draw everything, so he'll need to use, as well as symbols for some things and create a key or legend to help you read the map.
- Set your child loose with pencil, marker, and his draft map. When he’s done, ask him to explain the legend to you and look for places on the map.
Extend the Learning
- Make your own map of the neighborhood. You and your child can compare the maps to look for similarities and differences in how you view the neighborhood.
- Try a high tech way of exploring the neighborhood by going.