Silhoutte Map

We love maps and we need wall art for the playroom in our new house. So we made some. I would love to say this project is easy but that would be a big fat lie. The painting is easy but the cutting is not.  As you may notice  below our contact paper on our Canadian one wasn’t pressed down perfectly and now Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are  islands . Ooops.  It was still a chance to talk about geography , look at maps and cover the poor beaten up kitchen table with paint .

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some pre prepared canvases ( we got ours at Walmart), some paint, dishes for the paint, sponges or bath poofs for painting, sharp fine scissors, painters tape, vinyl letters , contact paper, print outs of maps and patience if you are the one cutting.
  2. Start by talking about borders and why countries have them. For really young kids use your yard as an example of borders, for older ones try adding in how each country has it’s own government who governs only within those borders. If you have ever crossed a border with your kids talk about that. Choose which country to turn into art ,and print out an outline .
  3. Cut your contact paper So it’s slightly larger than your map. Tape your map to the paper on the backing side.  I the taped it to my table with painters tape so it was stable when I cut it. I left one side not taped and rotated as I cut.
  4. When it’s all taped I peeled and stuck it to to canvas. Press hard.
  5. Add the vinyl letters. I asked my son “How do you spell USA?” and I got the sassiest teen eye roll as he pointed out the letters on the sheet. Not sure if I am proud or appalled.
  6. Add paint to a dish or dishes if you are using multiple colors.
  7. Start painting.  I have discovered that when painting a resist painting like these with stickers, contact paper and vinyl you want to use sponges, bath poofs or other painting tools that are soft and unable to get under the stencil and lift it like a brush could. I use washable paint for this because I have kids doing it, but to make the finished product last longer you could use less kid friendly paints too.
  8. We made Canada too – although the cutting was harder and I took some unintentional creative license with the borders , especially in the Maritimes. I turned it into a lesson as we compared our finished product with a real map. It ended up being a fun compare activity.
  9. Let dry, peel and reveal! 
  10. These will be fantastic in the new playroom! 

Books About Travel


Rooster’s Off to See the World by Eric Carle was reviewed by my son tonight as ” That’s a really nice book mama.” When I asked him what he liked he said ” The rooster was lonely, I only like trips with you and daddy too.” See Rooster has a grand plan to see the world, only he didn’t really plan it at all. Along the way friends join him but when night falls and they are cold and have no place to stay they all head home, and so does Rooster. I love that my son explained why Rooster went home and that he felt the same way not wanting to venture out to see the world alone… yet. Great book for kids learning to add and subtrack as well, as each page adds animals, then after the night falls each subtracts.

Dodsworth in New York by Tim Egan was a random book grab at the library and now we can’t wait to read the other books in the series because we loved it so much. The book is an easy reader chapter book but unlike so many of the leveled readers that I am reading with my son right now this one had depth, great characters and a hilarious sense of humor too. The story is about a guy named Dodsworth who decides to go on an adventure stopping first in New York. Things don’t exactly go as planned when the annoying duck from his favorite diner back home stows away in Dodsworth’s luggage.  Dodsworth sees the sights in New York nonetheless. You will laugh a long with your child ( maybe even a little more). I can’t wait to read the next installment – Dodsworth in Paris!

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman cost me a total of 15 cents at a thrift store. It is worth so much more than that. This book is a gem! Perfect for older preschoolers who are getting a sense of the world beyond their own home and city, this book takes you on a ride around the world! You follow the little girl to Italy, France , Sri Lanka, England, Jamaica and back to Vermont! As soon as I read this my mind was racing with classroom activities ! I will be posting some soon. I LOVE this book, I just wish I had read it when I was still teaching it would have been so much fun to teach geography with!

Famous Landmark Blocks

Taking your kids to Paris, London or Pisa might not be in the budget but you can turn their building blocks into the city’s most famous landmarks. What a great way to introduce learning about far away places by using your kid’s own blocks. This was so simple and can be redone with so many different themes like these animal ones ,or faces you don’t even need a printer if you want to hand draw the pictures. My son didn’t participate in making the blocks ( I think he gets enough crafts, what do you think?)  but from toddler to school age kids can color or draw the buildings too.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some building blocks. Any will do but here is my opinion- we used Fisher-Price Little People Builders Blocks, they are big, snap together but not too tightly. They let me be sorta sloppy with the contact paper. If there was some bunched up I could still snap them together. Duplo is less forgiving so you will need to only get contact paper on the side none on the top where the blocks come together.  Wood blocks would work well but might frustrate younger ones who want them to stay together. You will also need  pictures of whatever buildings you want to use, scissors, contact paper and clear tape.
  2. Start by laying out what blocks you will need for each building.
  3. Now here I did it two ways. I first cut the image into the pieces for the blocks, then cut the contact paper and put it on. It was tedious.
  4. The other way was to use one large piece of contact paper place the image on it face down, lay the blocks on it, make snips where you need to cut.
  5. Cut and apply to the blocks. This worked WAY better. I am not the most patient or careful because my window for doing anything without kids interrupting is tiny these days but as you can see even not too careful turned out great.
  6. Put them together!
  7. Time to play – he may not have participated in the making but he sure did with the playing.
  8. It’s mega-landmark!

Series Showcase : Ms. Frizzels’ Adventures

With summer vacations on the horizon some of my book lists will lean towards school age kids in the next few months. This series by Joanna Cole are books I have been reading with my 4.5 year old but they are really geared towards Kindergarten and up, with the true target being 6 and 7 year olds. There is a lot of information on every page of every book so take your time. We grabbed the Medieval Castles book on Monday and by Wednesday we’d tracked down the other two, now on Thursday I am sharing them with you. I couldn’t wait to write about how much I like these books and how exciting they make history and travel, two of my favorite subjects.

Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures: Ancient Egypt took me back to 6th grade when I discovered all the gruesome details of mummification . Ms. Frizzle and all the others on her tour to Egypt magically go back in time ditching their tour guide in modern day Egypt while they time travel to Ancient Egypt and learn all about the sights, daily life and the most exciting of course learning about mummification. I discovered that my son thought mummies were make believe and we took some time to talk all about what is real and what isn’t.  Did I ever tell you I have a degree in history? I love this stuff and books like this one is why I craved more and more information as a kid because it was presented so well. My son sat wide eyed as I read the book to him, and he carefully studied all the details of the amazing illustrations .

Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures: Imperial China Takes readers from present day Chinese New Year celebrations to the rice fields and palaces of Imperial China. In this installment Ms.Frizzle explores China, explains the concept of taxes really quite well and covers many of the inventions that came from the country. My 4.5 year old wasn’t as into this book as the other two in the series but I think that’s because I read two of  them to him back to back with this one at the end, which was obviously too much for his attention. I however loved this one and was fascinated by the little asides filled with information about Chinese inventions.

Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures: Medieval Castle was the biggest hit with both my son and I and the reason we went searching for the other books. This is a great book. The story is fun, the character’s asides are hilarious ( I love that her student is less than thrilled to see her outside of school), and the history explored is really an adventure. Ms. Frizzle heads to Medieval times after following a tunnel in a castle shop and a little twist of that magic time traveling watch of hers. Immediately they are at a castle where the Lord is on his way to fight for the King. This got my son’s attention right away and when the Castle was attacked my son was glued. We have had it out from the library less than one week but I have read it half a dozen time, and it’s LONG. I am more than happy to read it though, and the cutaway view of the inside of the castle is my son’s favorite part. I think perhaps being dragged around to open houses as we look for a new house has left a mark?  There is a lot of fighting and weapons which may mean this is not the book for your family but for us it puts these toys my son loves so much ( his Playmobil knights especially) into a historical perspective.  I will be buying this one for sure.

Map M – Letter of The Week and Geography Lesson.

Letter of the week has been a popular feature on our blog for a few years now, but it’s not so popular at my kitchen table anymore. My son has known his letters for what feels like forever so to get him interested it takes something special… like a map.  He loves maps, and will often ask us ” How do you get to Nebraska? How do you get to Paris? ” So we find the map and we decide if we should fly, drive or take a boat. I capitalized on that love to do this simple cutting and letter activity.

  1. Gather your materials you will need an old atlas or map ( you will be cutting it ), kid scissors, a marker, piece of construction paper and glue.
  2. Start by looking at a map . We looked at a map of the US since my son is into learning about states right now. Choose a state or country to check out. He chose Utah, we don’t know why but he loves Utah, like a lot.
  3. Flip to it if you are using an Atlas. If you just have one map to use, take some time looking at it with your child, look for different points of interest . This activity is as much a lesson to familiarize kids with maps and geography as it is one for the letter m.
  4. Tear out the page and write an M, if your child is able to have them write it. It’s easy to turn it into a block M by adding to theirs.
  5. Cut it out.  This will take time.
  6. Encourage them when it gets tricky. This was the most line cutting my son has ever done, honestly I was pleasantly surprised he did it all. He was pretty proud too.
  7. Add glue
  8. “Slam Utah down” His words. Let dry.

It’s an easy project but the cutting takes patience and builds skills , the exploration of the map sparks discussion and the letter recognition comes along for the ride!

Learning at Snack Time Too


While my son flipped through the atlas I fixed him a snack.  I knew which state he was looking for and was just thankful it was Utah, I didn’t have enough ham for any other state.

Alphabet  Books

ABC USAby Martin Jarrie is another beautiful alphabet book!  Like most alphabet books it devotes a page to each letter with vibrant illustrations . Not everything in this book is by any means unique to the United States but most are. I specifically appreciated the I for Immigrants page, both from a historical and personal perspective, my son loved the J for Jazz and we both loved all the whimsical illustrations. There are a lot of learning opportunities presented as well, school age children could really benefit from it as well the 2 letters that stood out for me for further learning were U for Underground Railroad and V for Valley Forge.  How ever you use this it’s worth a look for certain.


All Aboard!: A Traveling Alphabet by Bill Mayer was more fun for my husband and I than for my son but that’s not a bad thing. It’s a book of pictures, with hidden letters in them. For example the letter O is overpass with loops of road and hidden in it is an O. Some letters were easy to find some were hilariously hard. We read this to my son tonight at bedtime and while we stared at the letter H ( highway) picture debating where the h was, he fell asleep between us in his bed. This is a great alphabet book for families with children just learning and those who have mastered the alphabet. Oh and the debate was settled , we were both wrong. The final page highlights the letter in each picture in a compilation of the whole alphabet.

Multicultural Thanksgiving Craft For Kids

thanksgiving wreath

 

Learning about the world outside their comfort zone is a essential lesson for children of all ages. Blending geography lessons into art projects is just one way to do it. Although my son is still a little young to get the full objective of this project, he had fun with the art work and we have been saying “Merci” and “Mahalo” all day instead of “Thank You”. With older children you can pull out a map and choose countries from it, then look up how they say thank you for your own wreath.
  1. Gather your materials. You will need a paper plate , multiple pieces of construction paper, scissors, glue, a permanent marker, and your choice of water colors or crayons.
  2. Start my tracing your child’s hand or having them do it themselves. I traced mine first thing this morning and as he was eating breakfast I use it to trace all the other hand prints I needed. Trying to get him to stay still for one hand print was hard enough!
  3. Trace out at least 4 but more is better!
  4. Find all different ways people say thanks. If you have a toddler you will probably want to do this yourself, but I encourage parents with children able to understand to grab a map and explain that in that country children don’t say “Thank you ” in English, instead they speak ______ and say ______ . ( Edited to add Navajo word for Thank You = Ahéhee’)
  5. Write the “Thank Yous” in permanent marker in the middle of the hands.
  6. Have your child decorate the hands. We are using watercolor crayons but plain water color paint works wonderfully and crayons work in a pinch, as would light colored paint. You just don’t want to cover up the words.
  7. Have your child decorate the paper plate.
  8. While they work on the plate cut out the hand prints.
  9. Cut out the middle of the plate.
  10. Time to glue! I put a few globs on where the hands needed to go to guide my son, older kids obviously can do this themselves.
  11. Let dry and add a ribbon!

Book Suggestion

Our book titles are linked to Amazon.com via affiliate links.


Whoever You Are by Mem Fox gives me goosebumps and brought me to tears when I was a homesick Canadian teaching in St. Louis. The book is simple and talks about the differences of little children all over the world, but focuses on what they all have in common. There are beautiful illustrations that show children in all different cultures from around the globe with a sing song story to carry you along. It is a wonderful companion to the activity today.