We are slowly working toward a better understanding of global geography. I am enjoying watching Aodhan’s understanding of our planet, the continents and our cultures develop as we do our best to travel and explore the world from our own corner of the world. Plus, it is a perfect excuse for me to amass a lovely collection of pins on my Geography Pinterest Board.
After Aodhan’s first birthday we haven’t done much traveling. Gone are the days of 6 or 7 countries in a year. We aren’t quite ready to put our dear boy on a airplane, and in making the decision to live on one income we aren’t currently bleeding funds. So, we make do. Heck, we more than make do – we learn about the world in some pretty awesome ways! In addition to trips to the Royal Ontario Museum, which is a great way to acquaint ourselves with different cultures, we have been experimenting with some different and slightly unusual hands-on geography activities.
Puzzles & Animal Pals
Melissa & Doug make lovely puzzles. They are fantastic in their construction and variety. Since Aodhan was first using chunky puzzles, we have purchased (new and used) Melissa & Doug puzzle products, and I am confident that we will be having fun with our puzzles for many more years to come.
We loved our wooden Canada puzzle so much, that we had to pick up the Canada Floor Puzzle, and we put it to work with some of our animal friends to zero in on the physical geography, and fauna that exist across this mighty country. After having lots of fun constructing this giant puzzle, we pulled out the animal basket (thank the lord for Toobs!) and busied ourselves with matching the animals to the different provinces and territories where they might be found.
This gave us a chance to talk about city animals versus wild animals, and why some animals and their habitats are in danger due to urban expansion. We also talked about migration, both contemporary and historical. We were also able to connect the animals with some of the cultures where they might have meaning, such as: seals and the Inuit culture.
There was a great deal of power in the dimensions of this puzzle. Allowing for greater manipulation and interaction, this puzzle invites Aodhan into playing with the concepts of geography in ways that smaller puzzles or printables just can’t do. And so much dramatic play! There are so many different ways that you can use this idea – different habitat puzzles, fairy land puzzless, dino puzzles, farm puzzles! The possibilities of uniting puzzles with our little plastic friends and other manipulative are endless.
Clothes and Animal Pals
With tears in my eyes and little hiccups in my heart, I am constantly cleaning out my boy’s dresser drawers. Aodhan isn’t the tallest kid, but he has captured a couple of inches over the last season or so, and his clothes have needed some culling. Most of Aodhan’s old clothes make it into my craft bins or onto the backs of various other younger babes. But, the other day, I had one of those wild and wacky ideas, and ended up using a bunch of his clothes to create a Clothing Map!
We used a variety of different clothing items to make the different continents right there in the middle of our living room. Again, out came all of our animal pals, but this time we were able to use more than the raccoon and beaver (you know, the only two animals living in Canada). Aodhan was pretty great at placing the different animals on the various continents and I was very impressed with how he was able to figure out exactly what I was doing, and was able to name all of the continents despite me using underware and old t-shirts. You could also print out flora cards that are specific to each continent and add those as you go. This could also work really well if you are using continent boxes and you don’t want to buy or create a fancy (or to scale) world map. I have high hopes of finishing our continent boxes before the summer is complete and plan to use this DIY method for sure!
These unusual ways of considering and reconsidering geography are important for kiddos. They need to look beyond the images in an atlas and ask questions that arise in these less ordinary moments of play.