Do you often find yourself wondering what planet your kids are on? Do you find yourself shouting, “Earth to Susie, Come in Please!”? Do Johnny’s shenanigans sometimes shake you to your core?
If so, it may be time for some kindergarten geography activities that will distract your kids from their usual mayhem while helping them to learn about the space they inhabit in our world.
The following list covers all types of issues related to the lands we live in, from the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans … and more. So get ready to get down and dirty with your child while you explore Planet Earth.
1. All Over the Map
Get some large sheets of blank paper, pencils, stickers, and markers. Explain what a map is. With your child, draw a map of two or more rooms in your house. Select rooms your child uses a lot, like the kitchen or his bedroom.
After drawing walls, windows, and doors, have your child add drawings or stickers for furniture. A newborn sibling does not count as furniture.
On a second sheet, help him draw a map of the streets in your neighborhood. Show him where his house is and have him draw it onto the map. Add landmarks that are special to your little one.
Go outside and compare how your map matches up with the real world. Walk around, perhaps drawing a line on the map to represent your path. You could even scatter breadcrumbs as you go.
Follow your map (or your trail of breadcrumbs) home. Add things to the map that you didn’t think of before. Save the map for future activities. It will come in handy for activity number 4, below.
2. Land, Water, or Air
Get 3 small glass jars with lids. Put potting soil in jar #1, put water and a few drops of blue food coloring in jar #2, and leave jar #3 empty. Label jar #1 “land,” jar #2 “water,” and jar #3 “air.”
Beg, borrow, or steal a pile of magazines. Travel magazines work well for this activity. Cosmopolitan and National Geographic are not recommended, unless you also want to teach a lesson in human anatomy.
Give your little demon angel scissors (blunt-pointed, if you value your life) and ask her to cut out pictures that show land, bodies of water, and sky.
Place an empty box in front of each jar. Have her sort the pictures into the boxes that go with each jar, depending on whether the picture shows land, bodies of water, or sky.
Explain that the earth is mostly water, has seven huge lands called continents, and is surrounded by air (atmosphere). Emphasize the importance of keeping our land, water, and air clean (unpolluted).
A variation of this activity can be done using pictures of people, birds, land animals, and sea animals.
3. Going Green, Brown, and Blue
Find a topographic map of your country on the Internet showing the land mass in green, mountains in brown, and bodies of water in blue. Print it on a color printer.
Tape the map face up inside of a glass pie plate or baking dish that is slightly larger than the map. Using green clay, help your child press the clay on top of the land mass so that it resembles the shape of that country.
Then have him add brown, yellow, or white clay for mountains, pinching and pressing it to form peaks and valleys. Make major rivers and lakes using a pencil or spoon.
Now pour water into the dish to represent oceans, lakes, rivers, etc. Make a paper and toothpick flag and plant it where you live on the map. This activity can be repeated using countries other than your own.
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4. Pole to Pole
Purchase a globe and show your child where she lives on Earth. Point out the north and south poles. Draw a compass rose (that little design that shows north, south, east, and west on maps) on the neighborhood map that you made for activity number 1.
If the dog ate your neighborhood map, just draw a compass rose on a blank sheet of paper.
Buy a compass. Demonstrate how the compass works, explaining that the needle always points toward north for some reason having to do with magnets. (Actually, you have no idea how it works. Your child will explain it to you when she gets to first grade.)
5. Compass Time
Cut out the letters N, S, E, and W using poster board, or buy them online or at teacher supply stores. They can be any size — the bigger the better if you want to cover up those nasty fingerprints and jelly stains stuck to your child’s bedroom walls.
Paint the letters with your kindergartener’s favorite color (but make sure the color contrasts with his walls or at least complements the jelly stains).
Glue items to the letters representing things found in the northern, southern, eastern, and western parts of your country. For example, for the U.S., you could use photos of surfers, Disneyland, small state maps, or license plates. (No stolen plates, though.)
Hang the letters in his room (N on the north wall, S on the south wall, etc.). Let him practice using your compass while in his room. Better yet, buy him a compass of his own!
6. Sunrise, Sunset
Get out that globe and make it spin. That’s the best thing about owning a globe, right? (Besides dreaming about where you’d like to escape travel to, that is.) Shine a flashlight on the earth. Explain that the earth revolves around the sun and rotates on its axis.
Get up early with your early bird (not on a weekend), grab your compasses, and wait for the sun to make its appearance. Use your compasses to ensure that the sun is still in the habit of rising in the east. If all is as it should be, go make breakfast (since you’re up anyway).
7. This Land is Your Land, and It’s in Their Hands
Help your tot to get a global perspective by using hands-on materials. She’s never too young for books, map puzzles, and atlases. Include information about cultural geography such as languages, customs, and foods.
8. Where in the World
Using alternating colors of paper, cut out 8 circles with diameters from 1 to 8 inches. Label the bottom edge of each circle as follows:
- My Planet (8”) – this one can be a paper plate
- My Continent (7”)
- My Country (6”)
- My State (Province, Territory, etc.) (5”)
- My City (4”)
- My Street (3”)
- My Home (2”)
- Me (1”)
Gather small photos or pictures depicting your child and his home, street, city, state, country, continent, and planet. Call your child away from whatever trouble daydream he’s involved in and ask him to hand you the smallest circle.
Have him glue his own photo on it. Help him to do the same with consecutively larger circles until each circle has a corresponding picture on it. (He can draw his own pictures if he prefers.)
Pile the circles on top of each other, with the largest circle on the bottom. Punch a hole at the top, and clip them all together with a paper fastener or circular clip.
9. Placemat Places
With your child, make placemats using maps that are laminated or inserted in plastic sleeves. Use these at mealtime. While your hungry monster awaits dinner, hand her some stick-on stars and ask her to put a star on an ocean, desert, jungle, ice cap, and so on.
10. Global Proportions
Hang a large world map on the wall. Any wall will do, but make sure the map is hung low enough for your child to reach all countries on it. This doubles as a barrier to hide splattered ketchup and scuff marks (as well as pet stains, if they happen to reach wall level).
Show your child the countries and continents on the map. Make a point to work geography into your everyday conversations, mentioning the climate, land formations, animals, etc. that are present in different parts of the world.
So … if the terrain seems to be getting a little rough at your house, try introducing the above kindergarten geography activities to make your child’s world spin in a more positive direction.
After you’ve enjoyed doing kindergarten geography activities with your youngster, you may find yourself humming “This Land Is Your Land” (by Woody Guthrie), “I Feel the Earth Move” (by Carole King), or perhaps your own national anthem.
But maybe an even more appropriate song is “To Know You Is To Love You” (by Phil Spector), because that’s what happens when we teach kids about Planet Earth. The more they know, the more they’ll learn to cherish and care for it. And that’s something worth teaching.