In the today’s global world, the need for kids to know geography is becoming more important by the day. With the internet opening up the world like never before, our kids need to be informed about their world like never before.
American kids especially tend not to know the basic location of prominent countries. Not good. Kids should have a good grasp on ALL countries…things like where they are and what they are like.
Vocabulary is necessary, but when explained in context it takes on a whole new meaning. A lake is not just a body of water. It impacts the area surrounding it. Maybe it provides ways for people to feed their families. Or earn a living. Or maybe it provides tourism income for the surrounding community.
Think of the impact the Arctic Circle has on our globe. It’s not just a definition. It’s a phenomenon to be explored.
And let’s talk about the basic benefit of teaching kids that the world is a big place with many languages, cultures, and lifestyles that are far different from their own.
It’s so easy to assume that everyone else on the globe lives like you do and enjoys the comforts you enjoy. Even adults fall into that trap. But most kids honestly don’t know any different.
Enter geography. When taught correctly, it’s an eye-opener for kids. They see that some kids in other parts of the world have to walk long distances every day to get water for their family. Some kids live in houses with dirt floors. Some kids don’t get new clothes from the store…because there are no stores near them. Or maybe their parents have very little opportunity to earn extra money for anything other than basic necessities.
Geography not only teaches the world, it is also a open door to teach things like thankfulness, gratitude, and appreciation.
A well-rounded geography curriculum should help you do all of these things.
So… what are ways to make geography fun for kids? Some curriculum is all about learning geography vocabulary…as if a child doesn’t already know what a mountain or an island is. Not that all of them are that simplistic, but they can border on the mundane and, well, rather boring parts of learning about the globe.
A better way to teach geography is by having the child experience the world. When you tell the story of people and places, visiting them via internet and books, that brings life to an otherwise learning-by-memory approach. After all, learning the definition of an archipelago because you are exploring that part of Denmark is much more fascinating than memorizing it outright or making a flashcard about it just because you have to.
So what are the keys to teaching hands-on geography so that kids will actually think it’s fun? After teaching geography several years to younger elementary grades, I’ve narrowed it down to these:
- First, you need to visit actual countries via books or the internet. But stay organized with this. Pick countries that are all on the same continent before moving on to another continent. This will help to keep your child’s frame of reference intact. You don’t want it to get confusing!
- Secondly, keep it short. Don’t try to master everything about a location. Your goal is just to get familiar with the culture, climate (plants & animals) and lifestyles there. Hit the high spots. Skip the government and history end of it—at least for the elementary child. Make it fun and fascinating without being overwhelming.
If you are using a fact-style book, look at the pictures and read the significant bits of information. Older kids may want to explore some topics further, and that’s okay. But don’t let it get overwhelming or you’ll kill the joy.
3. Third, have some hands-on activities on the theme. Do some short activities with flags and maps to start off. And this is the time to point out those geographical definitions when they apply. Talk about the Arctic Circle when your country is a part of it. Point out a peninsula when you see it. Explain the Equator and why some countries are warmer than others. Have them find things as you give clues, using the directions north, south, east, and west. This is learning by doing, and this learning sticks.
Another activity for older kids is to write what they’ve learned. What did they think was interesting about this country? What facts do they remember after you’ve looked at books or other sources? What was their favorite animal from this place? Would they want to live there, and why or why not? Keep it short and very doable.
4. Lastly, a hands-on craft or project is always fun for kids. It could range from a simple coloring page for that country to a craft on something about the country that stands out. This will help them remember highlights and give them another frame of reference. Make sure that they write the name of the country on these projects to remind themselves of what they’ve learned.
Still need help? The curriculum at Let’s Go Geography is built on this model, and all the thinking and planning has already been done for you. Check out how Let’s Go uses these ways to make geography fun for kids by clicking this link: https://www.letsgogeography.com/geography-curriculum-for-kids/