Beaches and icebergs. Canyons and caves. Forests and islands. That is geography! Places and landforms. People and the animals who live among them. That is geography! When you frame geography in that way, it seems interesting, maybe even exciting, and certainly not intimidating. As a kid, even as a teenager, I didn’t see it that way. I couldn’t remember what went where on the blank maps we had to fill out every day in 7th grade… and that was all geography was to me–a bunch of meaningless shapes on empty maps.
Today I do the complete opposite of what my 7th grade teacher did: I make geography exciting for my kids. Here are my 11 favorite ways to do that:
1. Make maps fun.
When my kiddos were little, I made them continent magnets out of an old national geographic map. I simply cut out the continents, glued them to cardboard, and stuck magnets on the back. I had 2 of the same map so I mounted it to the cabinet near the fridge so the kiddos could put the magnets in the right places. Voila! My 1st graders became awesome at world geography even before they could read the names of the continents and had fun doing it! Here’s a time-saving way to turn maps into a hands-on lesson.
2. Take field trips.
When we learned about China, we visited a Chinese garden. When we learned about Louisiana, we visited a swamp… which leads me to number three.
3.Take a cross-country road trip.
If you have the resources and the time, there is no better way to learn geography than to travel through it! Think your kids are too young? Not so! If you start traveling when they’re little, they’ll become great travelers as they get older. When we had the amazing opportunity to take our first trip across the country, our children were almost a year, 3, and twins at the age of 4. They all did wonderfully! Since then, we’ve had the opportunity to take 6 trips across the country. Each time, our kids do so well and learn so much.
4. Explore the art.
When we learned about France, we mimicked the art of French artist Nathalie Novi using oil pastels. My daughters made artwork that we now have hanging in our living room. A quick Google search of “Art [country name]” is a great starting point.
5. Play games.
When we studied Egypt, we played the game Senet. When we learned about Africa, we found household items like egg cartons and candy to make the game mancala. You can find the instructions for that here.
6. Play the part.
During our unit on the American West, we learned about the old west. During art class, the kids made tin can lanterns, dressed up, and took a journey west to try to find gold during the California Gold Rush.
7. Play music from the country.
While my kiddos draw their maps, I like to find playlists on Youtube. Our favorites so far are the traditional Irish and Oriental music.
8. Learn about the animals.
All kids love animals! When we learned about Australia, we learned about koalas, dingos, kiwis, emus, kangaroos, and kookaburras. YouTube has some great videos of kookaburras laughing!
9. Find pen pals from another state or country.
I belong to a Facebook homeschool group and became best friends with another mom on there about three years ago. We also became pen pals and began writing letters. She’s from Texas and has kids around the same age as mine. They became pen pals, too. My kids know where Texas is easily now because their pen pals live there!
10. Play with money.
When I was a little girl, my dad collected money from different countries. I loved getting out the books he kept his coins in and looking at the different currency. He gave me those books earlier this year so the kids and I had so much fun looking at the money together and finding where on the map our favorites were from. It’s not likely many of you have a collection like my dad’s, but you can go to the bank and exchange American currency for that of different countries.
11. Eat the food.
You can find some yummy treats in the international aisle at the grocery store. We had a lot of fun exploring different Japanese snacks when we learned about Asia, some of which we loved like pocky sticks, and some of which we might never eat again!
This is just a start for making Geography fun. If you have more ideas, I’d love to hear them!
About the All-Star Blogger
Celena Marie is a historical fiction writer and graduate school student majoring in Elementary Education. She’s been homeschooling her four kiddos for six years and absolutely loves it! She blogs about all things ladylike and homeschooling on The Traveling Sisterhood.