Geography Is Literally Everywhere

A simple trip to the mailbox is a complete lesson in geography. Learning about geography can lead to a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the world and the people who live in it. Read on to learn more about introducing your child to the wonders of geography.

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It's easy to say 'Math is everywhere,' or 'Science is everywhere.' Both are true statements and helpful when discussing the importance of teaching young children by using their everyday surroundings as a classroom. But with geography, it really is true.

A simple trip to the mailbox is a complete lesson in geography. All the more so a trip to the grocery store. The first step in geography is helping a child understand his sense of place in the world. He knows the mailbox is 'over there,' but you can build that natural understanding to help him develop his sense of the larger world. A mailbox is a great beginning point, because it's the place where things come to from the outside world. It's also the place where we put things we're sending to the outside world. Here are several activities you can do with your small child to expose him to the concepts of geography. The point here is not to teach him facts or details, but to let him see some of the basics in action.

Write a Letter

The mailbox is a great teaching tool. You can use it as a point of reference when telling your child about other places. Begin with the story of a letter. Tell your child how the letter was created, to whom it was sent, and who wrote it. Then tell the story of the journey to the mailbox, the post office, the mail truck, the other post office, the recipient's mailbox and finally, the happy ending of being read by the grateful recipient.

Then sit down and write a letter with your child. As you write, retell the story of the journey the letter will soon take. Help your child to remember details like 'mailbox' and 'post office.' In the letter, explain to the recipient what you are doing and ask her to write back promptly, letting your child know that the letter arrived safely. The return letter will complete the picture for your child. When you've done that, move on to the next activity.

Cartography for Kids

Create a map of your own backyard. First, take a walk with your child around the yard and point out the things you see. Focus on landmarks like trees, large rocks or the pond, if you have one. Help your child get a feel for his surroundings. Ask him to point out the landmarks. Take him to a place where he can't see a certain tree, then ask him to lead you back to it. When he seems to have the lay of the land, tell him it's time to draw a picture of the yard. Bring your pad and crayons outside so you can see what you're trying to render.

When you've got your map done, get a map of your town and put the two maps side by side. Show your child that place on the town map where your yard is located. This will help him see the relationship between the little place he knows, and the larger place out beyond the boundaries of the backyard.

Mount an Expedition!

Now it's time for a foray into the larger world. Go on a trip to the supermarket! Before you leave, point out your yard on the map of your town, then point out the supermarket. Tell your child you will be going from this one place to the other. As you drive, ask your child about the things you can see out the car window. Then when you get where you're going, point it out on the map. Remind your child of where home it and tell him you'll be returning there soon. On the return journey, point out some of the landmarks your child saw on the way to the store. Then, when you get home, point out to him on the map where he's been and relate the things from the journey to the space on the map that lies between home and the store.

The point is not to teach your child geography, or to expect him to remember anything. The goal is simply exposing your child to new life experiences and lessons. He's constantly taking in the world where he lives. By participating in that you can help him become a better explorer of his world and help him to cover more ground. By giving him concepts to play with you set the stage for fuller and quicker uptake of more complex concepts later on. All children are good at learning. But they need parents and teachers who can give them the skills necessary to get along in the systematized modes of learning we call school. Early, playful exposure to new ideas will go a long way toward his academic and social success.

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