DIY Map Game — Montessori Geography

We were at my parents’ house the other day when they told me to look through the stuff in the basement because they were planning on getting rid of a lot of it — and I found the cutest little set of houses! [Possibly from some kind of miniature Christmas village.] My wheels immediately started turning — I knew I could find a way to turn this into a Montessori-inspired activity for our homeschool space.

When we got home, I opened the box the houses were in and was struck by how they were laid out in a grid formation. I immediately thought of mapping — we’ve been having a lot of fun with that this summer — and knew this would make the perfect mapping work!

I drew a simple map, making up street names that I knew both of my girls would be able to read easily, and then enlisted their help coloring it all in!

Then I placed all of the miniature houses on the map (LEGO houses or just drawing buildings right on the map would also work!) and came up with some map game activities for each of the girls’ developmental levels. I secretly call this “the MapQuest game,” but don’t tell MapQuest because I don’t want to get sued! [Although, hey MapQuest! You should totally sponsor this post!]

Prerequisites for this work:

  • Prior exposure to maps.
  • Understanding of the cardinal directions.
  • Understanding of left and right. [That card with the hands serves as a control of error since it can get quite tricky when you’re facing different directions.]

For Nora (age 4.5), I took a picture from overhead and added a red line to show the route she should follow. She uses one of the miniature people to follow the route on our mapping table. Another way Nora uses this work is by following my verbal directions. Finally, she gives ME verbal directions.

For Lila (age 6), I printed out written directions from one location to another. For example, one looks like this:

  1. Start at the corner of Chang Street and School Lane.
  2. Head West on Chang Street.
  3. Turn left onto Lila Avenue.
  4. Turn left onto Main Street.
  5. Stop at the corner of Main Street and Nora Avenue.
  6. Your destination is on your right. Where are you?

You can watch her do one here:

Lila also has begun writing out her own directions to follow. She begins by choosing a starting point and a final destination, then finding the quickest route between them and writing it down.

We are having so much fun with this!