Teaching Kids How To Use A Map

This weekend I taught my daughters how to use a map. I like to make sure my kids learn important life skills and I thought I was doing a good job, until the GPS stopped working in a snowstorm in the middle of the mountains in an area we don’t know about, and I pulled out a map . This was a girls’ trip, so my husband and kids were at home and neither of my daughters knew how to use a map. Navigating had always been the boys’ job. That’s terrible.

Reading a map is one of those “I can sleep when the wind blows” skills. If you know how to use a map, you don’t have to worry if the GPS stops working. Since I had a map and knew how to use it, I didn’t panic. But my 18-year-old daughter panicked when I gave her the map and asked her to help me navigate. I guess I assumed they learned how to use a map in school, or that my daughters were paying attention when the kids used maps on our hikes. I was wrong. My kids said they learned about maps but never used them.

Instead of being frustrated and just doing it myself (which is what I have done more times than I should) I pulled over and gave my daughter a quick lesson in reading and using a map.

How to use a map for beginners:

  • Take a pen or a highlighter and trace out your route starting with where you are and ending with where you want to go.
  • Take note of all of the turns, exits, etc you will have to make and what towns are near them.
  • Watch for road signs and follow along on your map as you go.  If you see a sign that says you are entering a town or landmark, mark that on your map to make sure that it is on your route and check for upcoming turns.

After quickly telling my daughter how to use maps and having her trace out the route on the map, we set off. The result was wonderful! What would normally have been a trip with everyone on their phones or tablets, turned into a trip where we were all noticing the beauty around us.  My daughters all started looking for signs and commenting on the beautiful frozen rivers and snow covered trees they saw.  We had real conversations about the area around us.

Another benefit was the increase in self confidence in my daughter as she successfully navigated us using the map.  She sat up straighter and her voice was more confident with each successful turn we made.  She was proud of herself for being able to do something that she thought would be really hard.

The younger girls also paid attention and my youngest daughters successfully navigated using a map on the way home. They were so proud of themselves!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are mapping skills for kids?

Maps are representations of the world developed by cartographers to assist others in navigating the planet. Maps provide information that is suited to a certain purpose. Reading a map is an important ability for both kids and adults. You must not only know how to discover your location, but you must also be able to travel securely to your goal. When children engage with maps via play, they naturally learn about them. Fill a box with felt roads, rivers, and buildings, among other things. Then, let them to construct and play on an imagined city map.

Why is map reading important for kids?

A map is a vital component of every journey. While many individuals depend significantly on GPS technology, learning to read a map is a vital skill for children to master. Learning to read a map, like basic reading and arithmetic, is a foundational ability that is required for subsequent development of a broad variety of information and abilities. Map reading is still an essential tool for helping youngsters develop their spatial reasoning abilities and understanding of our environment.

The Nature Principle, written by Richard Louv, emphasises the need of humans being able to reconcile advanced technology with natural knowledge. Natural knowledge refers to being aware of where you are and where you are going. Louv says that since youngsters are driven or walked to school and other everyday activities without having to orient themselves, they lack spatial awareness.

What are the basic features of a map?

Title, orientation, size, symbols, and grids are all common features of maps. Every map is a scale replica of reality. A map’s scale represents the link between distances on the map and real distances on Earth. This connection may be stated graphically, verbally, or as a representative fraction.

One of the most important aspects of a map is its title. It is the crucial word that piques the reader’s interest. If readers are already acquainted with the subject, a brief “title” may suffice. The reader determines if a proper title, whether short or lengthy, is required, but the title should answer their “What? Where? When?” questions.

A compass rose is used to represent the direction on a map. The compass rose indicates directions on the map, allowing map readers to connect those directions to the actual world. A compass rose will sometimes only indicate north. You can figure out east, west, and south if you know which way is north.


I’m a writer, new mom and foodie. I love sharing what I know while making others feel beautiful. On this blog, I share my healthy lifestyle, simple meals, fitness tips and experiences.

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Kara Bout It