I am really into geography. I suppose it’s a side effect of living all over the world growing up. My dad was in the Navy and we moved every couple years, including 2 tours overseas (Sicily and Okinawa), and lots of travel as well. It’s amazing how well you get to know the world simply by going there. Unfortunately, that’s not an option for my kids. We rarely leave our own city (too broke), so I have made it a goal of mine to make sure I do everything I can to help my kids learn about the geography of the world through games and activities. At least until we can save up money to do some actual traveling.
When I was a kid, my mom got me a puzzle of the U.S. where the pieces were each shaped like the actual state. To this day I remember much of the states because of that simple puzzle. So I’ve been searching for good puzzles for my kids which also have pieces that are shaped like the actual state or country.
After a lot of searching, I found a company that mostly has what I’m looking for, although not entirely. But since it’s the closest thing I can find, it’ll do. (Please leave a comment if you know of something better…I would LOVE to know of other options!) The company is GEOToys and the puzzles are called “GEOPuzzles.” They have one for each continent…I currently have North America (USA & Canada):
You can find these puzzles all over the web, just do a search for their names and a ton of options will come up. If you happen to have a “Professor Toy” store near you, they sell them there too, and I’m sure many other retail toy stores carry them…though I’ve yet to see them in a Toys R Us.
I say they are not perfect because they do lump together the smaller states/countries. And in the one with Canada, they don’t have all the provinces as separate pieces. Which is what I didn’t want. But there’s really only a few pieces like that so I suppose it will have to do.
Anyhoo, this is my recommendation for your first step towards learning geography with your family. And I say “family” because it’s really important that you, the parent, know your geography as well, of course!
I believe the best way to learn is to have a literal hands-on experience, so the puzzles with the actual shapes of the areas are best, I think. Even little kids can get to know their states and countries this way, especially if you do it together and have them say aloud the pieces as they are placing them.
This is also great for those of us learning this for the first time…A way to become familiar with the area we are studying before diving into the drilling that later will cement the info into our heads. Might even make drilling unnecessary, which would be wonderful!
But puzzles are not the only options out there, of course. There are tons of games that I’ve yet to explore and I will post more about them as I get a chance to try them.
More on this topic…coming in the next blog post…