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Working it out - Observation
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5 - 15 mins activity Suitable for 3 - 5 years

Location Outdoor, Street, Car, Shops, Bus

Children love maps. If you have a street directory see if you can find where you live on the map for your suburb. Work out the different routes you could take to get to places like the shops, kindy, playgroup, friend’s places or Granny’s house. Older children might like to follow the way on the map or on the GPS if you have one in the car or on your phone. Talk about street and suburb names as you look at the maps or as you program the GPS. Talk about the symbols you see on the map. Try and predict what they might be.

Materials you will need

  • Street directory
  • Map
  • GPS smart phone
  • Car GPS

Alternative tools

  • Online maps

Why does this matter?

Reading a map helps children to understand and interpret different representations of position and location and how to orient and navigate themselves within the environment. Looking at symbols helps children to understand and interpret patterns. It also helps them to understand that data can be presented using different visual symbols.

What does this lead to?

Reading and interpreting a map helps children develop an understanding that there are different ways we can move around space and that having an understanding of symbols, measurement, and direction will help us to make sense of the map.

Language and Questions to use

  • Map, street directory
  • Road, street, corner, roundabout, pedestrian crossing, train crossing, traffic lights
  • Left, right, along, near, next to, turn
  • How do we get to Granny’s in the car?
  • Can you find your kindy/school on the map?
  • Which way do we go to get to the beach?
  • Can you find our street on the map?

Useful Tips

  1. You might also want to look at the Timetables activity.
  2. Remember to talk to your child in your home language.

More ideas

  1. Children can draw their own maps of familiar areas and journeys.
  2. Look for other maps like the ones in shopping centres. What do they tell you?

Variation by age

Three to five year olds

  • Look for other maps like the ones in shopping centres. Ask your child to find a particular shop in the shopping centre. 'Can you find BigW on the map?'
  • You can make your own map with directions and pictures of things you pass on your way to places. For example, trips to visit family or places you visit often.
  • Time how long it takes to travel between destinations.
  • Make a lotto game of the different symbols you find on the map. Mark them off as you see them on your travels.

Questions to ask

  • Do you know how to find our house on a map? Can you show me?
  • Can you draw me a map from our house to your kindy/school?
  • What does this symbol mean?
  • Which is further away?

Where are we going?

Skills this activity improves

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