Before kids memorize country names on a map, these fun geography activities will peak their curiosity about the world, bringing geography lessons to life.
Sure, you can teach geography through worksheets. But it’s more fun to learn when you set up engaging geography activities kids can do for fun. So whether your little scholars are logging seat time at school or enjoying summer vacation, we’ve come up with five entertaining activities that teach kids about the world around them… no worksheets necessary.
- Create Your Own Country
Leafing through maps and dreaming of distant places is as much fun for you as it is for your kids. And they absorb so much doing it! They notice landmarks, place names, topography, cities, all the bells and whistles that make exploring the world on paper so engaging. And making their own? Well, that’s fun too. Let your kids create and map out their own country, from start to finish, as a way to learn about geography. They’ll get to…
- name it
- decide its size and location (what continent will it be on… or will it be an island? What country does it border?)
- decide what language is spoken there
- figure out its cities, towns, landmarks, and natural features (does it have mountains, deserts, plenty of lakes for fishing? Is the capital named after their favorite pet?)
They can also think about…
- what resources it exports and to whom
- what does it produce and what’s grown there
- how its government is structured (does it have a king and queen, a parliament, a president?)
- what currency is used
- what holidays people celebrate there
- what foods are grown there and what traditional dishes are served
The sky’s the limit with this creative activity that works for preschoolers on through to high schoolers. Who knows, maybe their land of make believe will be some place you’d like to travel to!
- Create Trading Cards
Move over Topps, by creating their own country trading cards, geo-scholars can turn their favorite pastime into a learning opportunity. Just like the ones that showcase your favorite ball player, country cards should have a great graphic on the front—either a hand drawn or printed picture of the country they’re studying. On the card’s backside, be sure to put the country’s important stats for quick and easy reference. You can include: language spoken, population, religions practiced, biggest exports, most popular sport, most famous citizen, currency used… the sky’s the limit! Once you’ve got your stats down, embellish the card, letting your personality shine through. Our final suggestion? Include a personal 1-10 travel rating system (where 1=bucket list trip and 10=you could take it or leave it) to keep your kids thinking about future plans.
- Make Discovery Boxes
It’s time to put those shoeboxes to work! Breathe new life into them by turning them into Cultural Discovery Boxes, filled with artifacts from a specific country your little scholar wants to explore. They’ll learn lots putting the boxes together, and even more as they sift through and share their findings with friends and family who want to know what they’ve been up to. Getting started couldn’t be easier. Simply, hit the web or dive into your local library’s travel section to find what you’re looking for. Then start gathering and creating objects to fill the box. Here are some suggestions on what to include in your box:
- examples of traditional clothing
- national anthem or song
- language(s) a few key, everyday phrases
- main exports and imports
- examples of folk and contemporary art
- important historical and contemporary figures
- important discoveries
- climate, size and population stats
- most popular spots to visit, landmarks
Print out pictures, create sculptures or collages, clip articles, record phrases and songs… get creative with the way your kids explore and collect their artifacts. Then toss them in to this keepsake before starting on the next one!
- Break out Geo-Games
It’s amazing how much kids learn through play. So it’s only natural to think of board games and apps as a way to study geography and culture. The next time your world citizen has a geography test or assignment coming up, plan a game night to keep them on track. They’ll have the “lay of the land” down soon enough, without even realizing it!
- Ticket to Ride Europe: This award-winning game challenges players to complete railroad trips across Europe to win. Once they’ve mastered Ticket To Ride Europe, you can dive into the expansion packs that include Asia, Africa, India and more!
- Brainbox All Around the World: Test your little learner’s memory as well as his or her cultural knowledge with this quick-paced Brainbox All Around The World game that’s fun for kids ages 8 and up.
- Passport to Culture: People, places, cultures, and traditions are just a few of the knowledge categories featured in this Passport To Culture trivia game that’s recommended for kids ages 10 and up.
- GeoBingo World: Even this littlest kids can get in on the fun with this easy twist on a traditional favorite. Play GeoBingo World to get your kids thinking about other places and cultures. Ages 4 & up.
- Stack the Countries: An easy to install app, Stack The Countries quizzes kids on different countries shapes, neighbors, landmarks, capitals and more! It’s fast-paced and easy for kids ages 8 and up to play.
- Set out on a Food Finding Mission
So much of our culture is reflected in the foods we eat. And sitting down for a meal is something everyone enjoys. So the next time your kids ask for their favorite dish, turn it into a geography lesson by having them trace its ingredients back to the source. For example, if spaghetti and meatballs is the meal they can’t get enough of, seek out the origin of the noodles and beef you use, and then break down the sauces’ ingredients too… besides tomatoes, which originated in Central and South America, what else is in there? Basil is used in dishes all over the world (Italy, Thailand, Vietnam), but probably originated in India. How about oregano? It was first used in the Mediterranean. Do you have any onion in there? Was it grown locally or did it make its way to the grocery store from another state or country?
After you’ve broken down the recipe ingredients and traced their origins, pull out a map to see just how international your meal actually is. Don’t forget to mark each food hot spot with a sticker. When all is said and done, you can also show your kids this interactive food wheel. It’s a great visual that shows the interconnectedness of our global food chain!
- Celebrate Good Times!
There’s cause for celebration with this geography activity because national holidays are what it’s all about. Investigating celebrations from around the globe is an easy way to get kids interested in learning about other cultures. Along the way, they’ll find out what other countries celebrate the New Year on Dec. 31… or how many countries celebrate Easter or even Father’s Day. They’ll also surely come across quite a few celebrations and traditions they’ve never heard of, like Finland’s Whit Sunday (a “Christian holiday commemorating the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the disciples of Jesus Christ”) and Eid-al-Fitr (which marks the end of Ramadan). This easy-to-use world holiday resource is a great place to start your search. Then find at least one holiday for each month of the year, and spread out your search across the globe. Mark your finds down on a calendar and on a map so you can keep track of the new and exciting things your little scholar has learned! Don’t forget to celebrate them all just for fun!
And of course, you can set your learner in the middle of the action with World Village Playsets, following Joe and Emma around on the beautifully crafted Chinese village playmat. As they use the wooden character pieces to explore, take storytelling cues from the story cards and skim through the enclosed travel journal, they’ll learn fascinating facts about life in China without even realizing it.
Which one of these geography activities will you try the next time your little one has a geography quiz on the horizon?
You might also like: