Have you ever considered using a US map (or other maps) to add some fun geography learning?
I am one of those people who loves maps. From a very young age, I loved to sit and read maps, globes, and atlases.
I was always fascinated by the different types of maps, and all the different things they can show you.
I ended up as a lawyer, but I really wanted to be the person who writes the words on shampoo bottles and get a doctorate in geography.
My kids? Interested in a US Map?
My kids just aren’t naturally interested in a US state map (or any other map, really).
I was shocked.
How can they possibly not think maps are the greatest?
I’m certainly enthusiastic about geography when I talk about it with them.
I enjoy the mapping activities and discussions in our main curricula.
I’m cool with them hating scrubbing baseboards as much as I do, but I do fun stuff with the US map of America and world map and geography because I want my kids to love maps and geography as much as I do.
So, I’ve had to take further steps to entice my kids into learning that maps and geography are fun.
Plus, they really needed to learn all states and capitals this year because it’s our second year of studying elementary-level US history.
Folks, in my world, 5th grade is the year for US map states and capitals, and this mama doesn’t slack when it comes to some old-school memorization requirements like states and capitals.
However, this mama also likes to keep things fun – I don’t want them to learn to associate a school subject with tedium.
The kids can learn to endure tedium when they’re scrubbing my baseboards, right?
It’s OK to enjoy learning their US map states and capitals.
A Special Place for Geography
We’ve got a special cubby-hole where we keep “their” atlas, maps, books, geography games, US map puzzles, etc.
(My geography collection is on a separate shelf, of course.)
My collection is mostly college-level.
Their collection includes lots of hands-on–puzzles, games, and the kinds of maps you used to be able to buy everywhere before we all had smart phones with gps.
There are some books, too, which we collected because they were handy for one of our adventures.
Homeschool Geography Curriculum
I’ve used the geography activities included in Sonlight for years, and they’re great.
I’ve also used grade-level geography worksheets from the cheapy multi-subject summer-bridge books (OK for making sure my kids have at least seen these types of worksheets so they know what other people are talking about).
But, I wanted to have a year where all my kids really focused a bit more on geography.
I can’t shake the feeling that I want to make sure I covered everything.
I found two major options that I felt would work for me. They both cover multiple geography topics, not just US maps.
The first is Daily Geography Practice, Grade 1.
And, it’s available as separate books for each grade level.
I looked through all the level and I don’t think a child would need to have completed any of the other grade levels to be able to do the work.
I chose to use this with my upcoming first grader next year.
The book isn’t full of real maps, and there is a lot of reading required, but there are a lot of what I would consider to be age-appropriate concepts.
There are fun, fantasy-style maps which encourages children to create their own fantasy maps.
And, it’s a fun way keep my first grader included and busy while I work with my older children.
The Daily Geography books are more expensive per book than other options. However, the Daily Geography books (at least for the editions I looked at), come with some permission to reproduce, so you might be able to buy one book for all your children if you can find a level that will work.
The other option is The Complete Book of Maps & Geography, Grades 3 – 6.
This book is in color and works for grades 3-6.
You need to buy one for each child, but each additional book is cheaper.
I’m using this book with my two older children in 3rd and 6th grade.
It’s far too advanced for my 1st grader, but some 1st and 2nd graders might be able to do it.
Using Puzzles and Art to Teach US Maps and Geography
My kid’s favorite mapping activity of all time is to take a plain white sheet and use Crayola Ultra-Clean Washable Markers to draw their own maps on the sheet.
They use tiny toys, especially toy cars, to populate the map.
I found the cheapest white sheets at Ikea and bought two of them.
The Crayola washable markers have always washed out completely so the sheet is blank and ready to re-use to create a new map.
We have a Puzzle Map that is almost exactly like this one:
I looked everywhere to find a puzzle that had most of the states as separate pieces.
Videos to Teach US Maps and Geography
This video show kids how to draw US maps:
Games to Teach US Maps and Geography
Using games to learn is, of course, awesome.
Stack the States is a fantastic app. My kids play it often because it’s so fun. It helps kids learn more facts about all the states, including recognizing state flags.
Interactive Maps to Teach US Maps and Geography
You can get free printable maps for each state! These have various things that kids can label on each state.
My kids have an interactive map that uses a Leapfrog Tag Reader, but it doesn’t look like it’s made anymore.
A close relation is this Electronic Kids Map of the United States:
My kids got a hand-me-down interactive globe like the Oregon Scientific Smart Globe.
They liked it a lot, but it eventually stopped working and became just a plain globe.
It had a lot of mileage on it by that time.
Songs to Teach US Maps and Geography
Rock N Learn States and Capitals Rap taught my kids their states and capitals.
We pointed to states on a map during the regions of the USA song.
To learn states and capitals, we also listened to the CD in the car.
This is my favorite resource on this whole list:
Do you have any favorite geography or US maps / world maps learning tools? Leave it in the comments so I can check it out!
Lisa Yankey is a regular contributing writer for HomeschoolSuperFreak.com and the author of the upcoming book, “The Homeschool Path to Foreign Language.” You can find her at www.highenergyhomeschool.com, on Facebook, on Pinterest, and on YouTube.