Saturday, October 5, 2013

The World we live in

When I was still a student I once met a family that had a map in their living room, and had marked with different colored pins the places each family member had been to. Since I love traveling, I loved the idea and was determined to do the same. Before we had kids, my husband and me had the chance to visit many different places around the globe, so as soon as Geek #2.1 had arrived I set out and ordered a giant map, 6 feet wide and 4 feet tall. After all, European countries are really tiny, even on a large map, and we needed space for all those pins.

Then we realized we did not actually have a wall that was 6 feet wide and 4 feet tall to fit such a map, and so the map is still standing rolled up in a corner of my office. I wish there was a funny twist to this, but the only thing twisted irreversibly now is the map.

Reverse Map for a different perspective
But thanks to another friend, my children's geography education and awareness of our place in the world was saved. A different giant map now occupies a 6x4 space that everyone has, but few think of using that way - we have a world map shower curtain (much cheaper than the laminated map too). The bathroom turned out to be a surprisingly convenient place to discuss geography. The reason it seems that a 2-year old takes 10 minutes to pull up her pajama pants is that it takes indeed 10 minutes for a 2-year old to pull up her pajama pants. But now the rest of the crew can show each other where grandma lives or how far away our next vacation spot is while waiting on The Queen.

If you, too, have vowed that your children will not grow up thinking that Africa is a country, or demanding war in easier to find countries, you could also try board games or puzzles. I have only found US state puzzles in wood, but there are online puzzles that can cover more. as a great selection of maps for all continents, the states/territories of larger countries, as well as challenges to place rivers and landmarks (so ... where exactly is Yellowstone again?).

Looking at maps not only fosters recognizing and memorizing countries, but can also lead into discussions about history. For instance the continent Columbus discovered for the Europeans is called America, simply because two 16th-century German scholars wrote that name on a map they made. (The "Waldseemüller map" is now exhibited in the US Library of Congress).

1685 Bormeester Map
Maps can illustrate wars, social problems, natural habitats, climate, and different cultures. Tell your kids an additional fact about each country they look at, and help them see the connections. Maps can give you a new perspective. And some are just really fun to look at, like this amazing maps collection on Twitter or this blog just about maps.

More geeky shower curtains:
- Human anatomy
- The water cycle
- Metamorphosis
- Earth
- Periodic table of elements

More interesting Maps:
- What each country leads the world in

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