Relying on directional assistance from GPS technology has become part of everyday life for many of us. But what happens when the battery dies, or the map doesn’t load? There’s comfort in having natural navigational knowledge to remain confident when apps or technology aren’t a reliable option.
It’s important to teach children to become good observers, so they can navigate their neighborhoods and communities and learn how to confidently read and use a map!
Here are some simple ways to help your child build their own skills:
Establish landmarks. Point out recognizable places or things around your town that are memorable. This could be as simple as an interesting tree or your family’s favorite ice cream shop. Talk about the landmarks whenever you’re in the area. Soon your child will be able to anticipate and point them out on their own.
Read maps together. If you encounter a map, whether it’s for a city or a local park, take a moment to examine it with your child. Point out where you’re headed and explain any symbols that may be present. Don’t forget to pause and give your child time to ask questions to build understanding.
Discuss trail markers. Take a hike with your child and point out trail markers. When you reach a trail crossing, be sure to stop and talk about which way to go and how to know you’re on the correct path.
Create a map. Grab a piece of paper and some crayons. Start with their room. Help your child draw an original map using symbols for the furniture. Add to the fun by turning it into a treasure map. Go on the hunt for a special reward or hidden toy!
Map out a fairy tale. While reading your child’s favorite adventure story, lay out a simple map to follow along with the main character’s travels. Or consult a world map and point out where your child’s favorite characters are from (Ex: Madeline is set in Paris, France).
Start young! By the time your child is old enough to venture off independently, they will have years of experience observing and practicing with directions and maps. You’ll feel a sense of relief knowing your child has the skills to navigate new (or familiar) places on their own.