Teaching a child geography early on in life is so important to promote self-awareness as well as ensure that your child is well rounded and cultured.
It also helps teach them direction so you don’t have to constantly yell “Your OTHER right!!”
However, opening up a textbook and trying to read information off to them may not be very effective because little ones tend to retain more information from a hands-on experience.
Luckily, sneaking in education while I rile up my kid is one of my favorite things to do, among sneaking in blended spinach into the spaghetti sauce to ease the guilt of letting him have cookies for breakfast because we ran out of eggs.
So here are some awe inspiring preschool geography activities to get your little one excited about the world without having to leave your community:
1. Make them self-aware
Before they can really understand the complexities of geography, you need to establish a connection between your child and their surroundings, and I’m not just talking about the mounds of toys and crushed cereal in their room.
Inform them that they are part of a household, their household is part of a neighborhood, which is part of a city, which is part of a state, and so on.
You can really choose to go as far as you want, and a neat way to have a visual of this integration is through foam cups stacked on top of each other as you can see here.
2. Make them aware of others
Once they’ve established their personal connection with the world, it’s time to introduce them to others.
Dust off an old map (or draw, print, buy one) and lay it on a flat surface. Try throwing a bean or other small object at the map and wherever it falls, tell them some information about that place that differs or compares to home.
For example: We live in Texas where it’s hot and our beach water is brown.
Our bean landed on Hawaii where it’s hot and the beaches are clean and the water is blue (and where I wish I was taking a vacation right now, alone, with flowers in my hair…)
3. Give them a sense of direction
Show your little adventurer the importance of a compass, and apply their skills by reinforcing them in day to day life with a game that is essentially “hot and cold.”
“Your blocks are NORTH of your tennis shoes.”
“Go SOUTH of your puzzles to find the crayons.”
“Walk EAST to pick up the remote I can’t reach.”
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4. Show them what the world is made of
Keep your kids hydrated by having them drink bottles of water and then save the bottles for a special project to give a basic foundation of understanding that the world is made up of land, water, and air.
Leave one bottle unopened for water, leave another empty for air, and go outside to dig up some dirt to fill the last one with land.
Having a small, physical representation of these elements can help make sense of the bigger concepts later.
5. Introduce them to landforms
While there are many landforms, the most intriguing to young minds are probably going to be mountains and volcanoes, especially if you live somewhere flat.
For this exercise, recreate the movements of tectonic plates during snack time, as if your children needed another reason to make a mess and play with food!
Take large rectangle crackers (easier to use than smaller crackers) and your choice of goop – icing, marshmallow fluff, or my favorite, peanut butter.
Push the two crackers together along the sticky stuff underneath until they overlap and start to mimic the making of a mountain.
At least this time a sticky mess served a better purpose.
6. Reach for the sky
While explaining the concept of clouds and air to younger children can be a little difficult, it’s simple to turn it into one of the easiest preschool geography activities.
Take your little explorers outside with a blanket to lay out and cloud gaze. Ask them to tell you about what certain clouds look like to them.
Once you’ve piqued their interest, sneak in a quick explanation of what clouds are made of.
When you head back inside, you can have them recreate their favorite clouds with glue and cotton balls to ensure they have that hands-on learning experience.
7. Travel the world (without the expensive airfare)
Grab a backpack and let your kiddo pack it as if they were going on a mini trip.
Set up different stations around your house with different “travel destinations” and make sure to include pictures of important landscapes, traditional foods, or other interesting things that make that destination unique.
You and your child can “experience Italy” where you have pizza and ride a gondola (or you can skip the ride and visit the “vineyard” station in the kitchen :-))
8. Show them the wild
If you’re not lucky enough to live somewhere where wild animals can be observed safely in their habitat, you’re probably stuck paying a steep price tag for the zoo, but I find that it’s worth it if my kid learns something and has a unique experience.
Zoos already have information printed on the animal exhibits so it’s easy to teach them something new with minimal effort.
I’ve made it a little more interesting by going in with the task of finding one animal from every continent. This really helped my child understand how different creatures live and adapt to different lands and climates and seeing the animals helped paint the picture more vividly.
If you’re really lucky, they’ll get through all seven continents with less than seven bathroom breaks.
The world is a big place, especially for a child, and there are countless preschool geography activities that you can do with your child to help inspire awe and curiosity early on in life. So get out, and get inspired by your surroundings!