Take a little child to a multicultural festival and she is immersed in new sounds, sights and flavors. Hang a map on the wall and watch your children start pointing out different countries and asking lots of questions. Give an older child an atlas or map while taking a trip and see his joy at giving directions and figuring out the best path to reach your destination.
But pull out the workbooks, make kids memorize state capitals or country names when they’d rather cook recipes from different cultures or watch travel DVDs, and watch that eagerness and wonder about the world slowly fade away.
Geography can be one of the most fascinating and interesting subjects to explore for kids if they’re allowed to approach it from their interests and given a wide range of hands-on, sensory experiences.
Here are 10 unusual ways to explore geography with your children. Get ready for an exciting ride!
1) Little Passports Little Passports is a unique, engaging way for young children to learn more about different countries of the world. You can sign up for six months ($77.70) or a full year ($131.40). The first month your child will receive a tiny suitcase with an introductory letter from Sam and Sofia, two fictionalized children who travel the world and write to your children about their adventures, a travel passport, a wall world map, fun stickers and activity sheet, and online access to a website full of fun games. Then each month your child will receive a letter from Sam and Sofia describing their adventures in a new country, open fun souvenirs and gifts, and receive secret access to online games and activities. It’s something my children, especially my daughter, gets excited about every month.
2) My First Amazing World Explorer This computer games was my daughter’s favorite Christmas present this past year. She amazes me with all the new things she learns about the people, culture and animals of different countries. The game has 16 different videos, 600 narrated pop-ups, more than 300 animations, and 44 different maps. And right now I’ve seen it new on Amazon for only $3! An amazing deal.
3) Google Earth I think Google outdid themselves with this app. It’s amazing. My daughter can literally spend hours zooming in on different parts of the world, clicking on videos and looking at pictures. She learns SO much! She loves animals; her favorite thing to do is see where her favorite animals live and then explore the country on Google Earth. And it’s free!
4) Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? I’ve posted a link to the computer game, but the Carmen Sandiego product line also includes board games (we found one for $2 at a thrift store) and DVD series. Carmen is a thief who steals objects like famous art works and historical artifacts. Your job is to travel to 50 different locations around the world to track her down using a variety of resources including a talking foreign language dictionary, and Internet links to maps, satellite images and geographic resources.
5) Families of the World DVD series My family has really, really enjoyed watching many of the DVDs in this series. This series introduces children to two different children, one living in the city and one in a rural location, in different countries of the world including Egypt, Brazil, Ireland and Afghanistan. You follow the two children throughout their day, starting from when they wake up to when they go to sleep. You’ll learn what they eat, where they live, the climate of their hometown, where they attend school, how they celebrate their religion, chores they do, and other daily routines. The fact that the DVDs are narrated by children makes this DVD series different from other travel related DVDs for kids.
6) The Little Travelers This is an adorable 5 DVD set about the adventures of two little girls and their parents. It’s basically a documentary about their travels. My kids especially enjoyed watching the DVDs because they centered on the kids and showed their perspectives on travel. You can follow the Little Travelers on their journeys to Iran, Bali, Japan, the British Isles, and Germany.
7) National Geographic Kids This website is another of my daughter’s favorites. From videos, brainteasers and puzzles, to maps, facts and photos, this site is pretty incredible. There’s also a National Geographic Kids magazine that my daughter adores, too.
8) The Scrambled States of America This picture book is a kooky, goofy, fun way for kids to learn more about the United States of America. We learned so much about the different states while laughing at the illustrations and goofy rhymes. They’ve also made a DVD with the same title, too.
9) Geography for Every Kid This activity book, written by Janice VanCleave, has dozens of fun activities older children can choose from to learn more about geography. Some activities include looking at the earth’s climate, population, using a map grid, comparing time zones and determining the depth of the ocean floor. If you have a true geography buff, they’ll love looking through the activities in this book.
10) Travel as Much as You Can! It’s fine to read about other cultures, peoples and lands or to watch travel DVDs, but until you actually GO to those countries or states, and use all your senses to explore those places, you’re understanding of those places will only go so deep. We’ve been blessed to have travelled to 13 states, one US territory and one British territory before our kids turned 5. We’re planning a trip to Europe soon and want to travel as much of the world as we can with our kids before they leave home. However, I realize that not everyone can travel as much as we do or even want to travel. If not, try to introduce your kids to as many different cultural experiences as possible. Attend different cultural festivals, go to cultural museums, visit different restaurants, make friends with people from different countries, learn foreign languages, get a pen pal in a different country and celebrate the traditions and holidays of foreign countries.
What fun & unusual ways have you’ve learned more about geography?
Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks
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