At times, we can take maps and directions for granted. When you stop and think about it, being able to follow a map or give directions are quite important skills. They are also quite difficult concepts as maps show a 'bird's eye' view of an area, and when giving directions, you need to verbalise the map that appears in your head of how to find a certain place.
Can young children undertake such complex thinking? Absolutely...and in a fun way. The idea is to make it relevant to them and begin with concrete materials. I tried this out with the children that I work with a couple of weeks ago and they loved this activity...
I encouraged the children to think about their own bedroom. We made a list of all the furniture that is situated in their bedroom (eg. bed, drawers, wardrobe, toy box, etc). I then gave each child an ice cream container lid (a placemat or board would work just as well) and a ball of playdough (there are various recipes that are on the web and it is easy to make). I then encouraged the children to make their bedroom furniture with the playdough and show me where it is in their room by placing it on the lid, pretending that the edges of the lid represent the walls of their room. Once they completed the playdough model of their room, I took a photo of their model from the top (from a 'bird's eye' perspective). The next lesson I had a square on a piece of paper and some smaller labelled rectangles and squares to represent various pieces of furniture. Using the photo as a guide, the children cut out the 'furniture' and glued it on the square to show a map of their bedroom.
I think if I skipped the playdough model step, developing a map of their bedroom would have been much more difficult for children. This same model and mapping idea could be also used to map a yard, a classroom, a playground or any other familiar place.
Have a wonderful weekend!