I am quite possible the world’s most illiterate map reader. And to make matters worse, if I *DO* figure out where I am on a map, I will never be able to direct my way around while using it because I still don’t know my left from my right.*
As any good mom, I want better for my kids. They constantly ask why they need to learn about maps and directions when even watches have GPS these days. I tell them that it’s the same as learning math even though there are calculators, or how to write even though we type everything. Learning these foundational skills is important so that when the zombie apocalypse comes or the robots gain self-awareness, they will have the skills they need to survive.
But seriously, understanding maps is a vital skill. Our kids can’t become reliant on their phones to direct their every move. What happens when the battery dies or they can’t get a signal? In addition, map skills are important to develop awareness of geography, global events, world socio-economic politics, the climate and environment, and so much more. Most of us know Australia and Austria are very different and some of us even know where approximately in the world both locations are. But what about Slovakia and Slovenia? Uruguay and Paraguay? Kansas City and Kansas?
Luckily, it’s easy to introduce maps into your daily activities. Start small by taking your kids to the mall and have them use a directory to plan the best route to the places you want to visit. Graduate to neighborhood trips, with the kids directing you to their friends’ houses or other landmarks (give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your location in case things go awry). Give them park maps and have them guide you on the trails. As they get more comfortable learning about directions, have them use north and south instead of left and right. Eventually, hand them an atlas and have them plan a family trip. One of the best ways to introduce map usage is by using geocaching games. So much fun!
And reinforce global awareness wherever possible. If you’re watching TV about shows that are set in other locations, find the locations on maps or globes. Show your kids where Brazil is when the summer Olympics air. And subscribe to Faces magazine. Faces, our geography magazine for kids ages 9 and up, is like taking a trip to a new location every month, with no passport needed. With Faces in your mailbox, you’ll visit places as diverse as South Africa, South America, and South Jersey. And every issue features a map of the location on page 4. It’s the perfect way to bring the importance of maps home to your kids.
A better world view can give your kids … well, a better world view.
*Disclaimer: I know my left from my right, I just always say the WRONG one. Back in the olden days, when I had to provide directions for my husband who was driving, we established a policy of “Make a Me” (which meant turn right, because I was sitting on the right, in the passenger seat) and “Make a You” (which meant turn left for him). I still messed it up.
Cricket Media Mama is eternally grateful for mobile phones with GPS, and the friendly lady inside the phone who never gets mad when I turn the wrong way, although I probably hold some sort of record for hearing the word “Recalculating.”