3 Fun Ways To Teach Mapping To Kids On A Road Trip


We live in a world where devices such as our mobile have already built-in GPS navigation. If not, we head over to Best Buy to see the latest in GPS navigation, right? On a weekend road trip with the familia – you are going to lean on ‘the GPS voice’ ‘this extrangero‘ (the artificial voice that mispronounces Spanish landmarks and highways like ‘Junipero Serra‘ or “El Camino Real”) as your navigation to get you from point A to point B, it is easy and most of all, it is convenient. No skills required, just a push of a couple of buttons, y listo – we are on our way to Yosemite!

Well, not so fast, let’s think worse case scenario – Chato (the family dog, of course you had to bring Chato) jumps on Junior’s lap and SPLAT! Junior’s In-N Out Burger chocolate milkshake is all over the dash and well, there goes the only device charger in the car. So hopefully, you brought along a ‘real’ paper map – remember those? Usually stuffed in a back of seat pocket or in the glove compartment. You did bring one, right? Right.


So what’s the deal with maps? And why know how to read one? Map reading is still an important skill to have. Most importantly, it is a skill to pass on to children growing up in this ‘digital age’. Map reading helps children develop spatial reasoning. What is spatial reasoning? ‘Spatial reasoning is a category of reasoning skills that refers to the capacity to think about objects in three dimensions and to draw conclusions about those objects from limited information. Someone with good spatial abilities might also be good at thinking about how an object will look when rotated.’ In other words, ‘REAL WORLD’ physical situation reasoning. You can test for spatial reasoning. Children will be able to figure out their relation to things: tell distance from city to city, state to state, country to country – “how far is camp from here?” Maps will help them figure out their location and place in the world.

“Spatial thinking is arguably one the most important ways of thinking for a child to develop as he or she grows…A student who has acquired robust spatial thinking skills is at an advantage in our increasingly global and technical society.” ~ National Geographic 2013 report on mapping and education

Map reading does one more thing – it provides more options and is freeing, allowing planning and self-navigation despite detours, road blocks and that unreliable estrangero talking to us via GPS-navigation device leading us off course!


So how can dads guide their children in learning this all too important skill. The younger the better – pre-school age is ideal.

Break Out The Books:

Teach them the basics and concepts of maps with picture books! Two favorites for parents are ‘Follow That Map!: A First Book of Mapping Skills’ and ‘Lucy in the City: A Story About Developing Spatial Thinking Skills

Go Digital:

The web is an amazing place to find interactive everything and guided tutorials for learning. Check out National Geographic for MapMapper and Dino Road Tripgiphy (12)

Get Hands-On:

Toys for the kids, of course, always go a long way during play time – try Scientific Toys Interactive Around The World Map and of course, own a desktop or table one of these.

Head to local park for a map drawing session or treasure map hunt or walk around the block,and have your child map out and label objects like fire hydrants, post office boxes and of course, la casa! Talk about directions, bring a compass to help them understand ‘points’ showing directions North | South | East | West.

Exploring mapping with children can lead  YOU also to have fun and get curious! Plan your next trip with a map! It may be time to retire the ol’ GPS tools!

“If all the ways I have been along were marked on a map and joined up with a line, it might represent a minotaur.” ~ Pablo Picasso

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