We have been having a lot of fun with coordinates, grid references and maps lately. It all started with the game of Battleship, when talking about our strategies. This game is a fun way to build and develop essential mathematical and life skills.
As our tribe have got older, their play has developed from let’s play a game, quickly move on to another without much thought; to actually talking about the game and strategizing their decisions. It had never really occurred to me how many skills they where learning from this simple game that we either play as a boardgame or with pencil and paper when we are out and about.
Here are 3 essential skills that are being developed.
They are LOGICALLY THINKING all the time and making decisions based on prior outcomes. Mr O we realised after playing several times has a tendency to bunch his ships. He normally has them in a H configuration or some other letter that you have to work out where as Mr J normally spaces them out.
They are PROBLEM SOLVING from the very beginning as they devise their own strategies.
As the game is played on a 10 x 10 grid there is a lot of SPATIAL REASONING that goes into how to setup your ships.
I always have pencils and paper on hand when we are out and about and we normally just make up our own grid, however if you want a quick printable Kidspot have you covered. Click on image for their printable.
So it got me to thinking of 4 other fun activities that involve grid references to develop basic map reading skills in a playful way. Even with GPS and the rise of mobile technology learning how to read a map is still very important. It builds spatial awareness skills and visual literacy. These skills are not only relevant to geography and map reading but our everyday lives.
1. Use tape or planks to make a grid game
Planks are one of the favourite toys we have. The building possibilities are endless and they go pretty high too. Washi tape and cardboard also make a great portable grid.
Use planks to make a grid as big or small as you like.
Grab some small toys, we often use Shopkins, Trash Packs or some Playmobil and add them to the squares. You can then ask questions about where they are or leave the grid blank and ask questions to fill the grid.
- Which square can you see a horse?
- What is in C2?
- How many squares does the the fairy have to travel to get to B9 if she is at B3?
- Can you put a Shopkin in D4
Moving on from Battleship and practically making our own grids we decided to look at some maps.
2. Go for a scavenger hunt around a shopping centre
Recently in a nearby shopping centre we picked up a couple of maps from customer service as we walked in. We looked over the map to familiarise ourselves with the symbols, grid system etc – then we played a game. I told Mr. O who was with me that I was going to give him a grid reference and he had to lead me there. Firstly, I asked Mr O to find grid references on the map e.g B2, we looked at what was in that square, we worked out which direction we needed to go and walked to find the spot we needed. We did this a couple of times together, next I told Mr. O that I was going to tell him a grid reference then tell him a number of squares and directions and he could tell me where he thought the next grid reference was. Eg. If we are at B2 now and we walk 3 squares up and 2 to the right where will we be? After a few turns, we eventually ended up at Koko Black for a hot chocolate. A job well done!
3. Have a look at real maps
Looking at real maps of your own neighbourhood or even further afield to other countries helps children analyse their local environment and spatially think about the space around them, or indeed deepen their understanding of the world around them. Looking at a real map can be confusing as it is full of unknown symbols and imagery. Learning how to think spatially is crucial in enabling your kids to navigate, understand and process the world around them.
National Geographic has some amazing activities for budding cartographers – click on the image to head over.
4. Make your own map
After looking at maps of our local area and other maps we have collected over time we decided to draw a map of local area from memory and use it to get to school to see how much we could remember correctly. The map occupied everyone for quite a while and turned out really well. I just love the conversations that activities such as these start. The collaboration, thinking back and chatting together over what goes where is priceless. The maps are full of buildings, roads, parks and many features that are obviously committed to memory as we try to walk at least a couple of times a week. When we used the map the kids were quick to highlight what needed adjustment and were thrilled how much they could remember.
Have fun learning together xxx