Create a map for a birthday party scavenger hunt or to help your young bike rider find his way to a friend's house, even if you don't have cartography skills. Whether you draw your map or create one on the computer, keep it clear, uncluttered and colorful. Adapt your map to your child's age: use stickers or line drawings to represent locations on a map for your kindergartner instead of the written street and location names your older child can understand. Use the map to help your kids learn routes to nearby locations, safety symbols and how to find their way to a new friend's house.
Decide what area your map will cover. Kids will pick up mapping concepts more easily if you start with a familiar location, such as your immediate neighborhood. Your child's age will determine the level of detail on your map, as well as the appropriate mix of written words and pictures or symbols.
Draw a basic grid to represent the streets in the area and label them by name. Then draw a simple house or write "Our House" to anchor the map with a location familiar to your child. For a younger child, add six to eight more familiar locations, using clear, simple symbols or outlines. Include the friend's house where he frequently plays, his elementary school and the fire station where he had his birthday party, for example. Color a patch of green space to represent the nearby park or his soccer fields, and use blue to denote the pond where you go together to feed the ducks.
Draw a more realistic map for older children, indicating curves and other road features they understand. Neatly print the names of the primary streets on the map, including the street where your family lives. Mark other key locations with a dot or a star, then write the name of each location. Perhaps your child helps water plants for a few families in the neighborhood -- note those on the map. If she rides her bike to the corner store or to school, draw a directional line the color of her bike to mark those routes.
Incorporate recognized symbols to mark specific locations and make the map a useful teaching tool. Your youngster can learn which corners to stop at and look both ways for traffic on his way to a friend's house if you color a red octagon, representing a stop sign, at the appropriate spots. Color in a yellow diamond and a broken double line to mark the crosswalk location where the school crossing guard will help her cross safely. Include directional arrows to help kids understand which routes to take to various locations. Add the standard cross-hatched lines to mark the railroad tracks that run through town, a cross to represent your family's church and a book where the public library is.
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