Backyard Safari and Map Activity

map activity for preschoolThis map activity was a huge hit because it included pretend play. Preschoolers love jumping into a fun pretend play scenario and adding a big dose of imagination to a regular old activity. My daughter loves going on safari when she plays dress up so I used that love to turn a simple hunt into a map activity. Reading maps is an important skill not just for the future but it teaches directions ( as we played we practiced left and right)  and uses spatial thinking skills . This took less than 5 minutes to set up and even if you don’t have a yard you can pop the toys in a backpack and try this at the park, beach, or even inside your home.

 

Gather your materials. You will need some toy animals, toy binoculars ( or make some like these binoculars), safari dress up, a clip board, markers and paper for making the map.backyard safari supplies

I started by mapping out our yard. It took me two tries before I got a somewhat accurate map. You could probably google earth your house and get a great shot of your yard but I don’t plan that far ahead so I free handed it.map activity for kids backyard safari

Then I added and X for each animal. Some spots have two Xs because there are two animals together.safari map for kids

Invite your little explorer to get ready for the safari!backyard safari dress up

Show them the map and go over it with them by asking them if they know what it is. What each part represents etc… don’t explain it all to them, let them explain it to you and you can fill in any big blanks if they arise.safari map activity for kids

Get ready to find some animals. I only helped once when she was really getting frustrated. The little alligator was tiny and well hidden. backyard scavenger hunt for kidsEvery time she found an animal she kissed it and put it back. gross motor safari game for preschoolI explained that when you go on Safari you observe the animals but you don’t take them with you.map activity for preschool  As we went along she found them even faster as well as got into the character , she was running so fast from one to the next.gross motor map gameMake sure you take a few moments to talk about what kind of animals they are and a little bit about them. We talked about herbivores and carnivores and how they are different.  She was very proud of herself for being able to read a map. For older kids have them create their own maps of the yard and add the Xs on after.back yard safari scavenger hunt

Story Books Featuring Safari Animals

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books about being different

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae is a very sweet story about a giraffe who gets laughed at because he doesn’t know how to dance. A cricket gives him some great advice and with new found confidence that different isn’t always bad he starts to dance!  This has been a favorite in our house for years!

Elmer
Elmer by David McKee is another book with a great message. Elmer is different, he isn’t gray like all the other elephants, and he’s a little bit of a goof too! He’s not so sure he likes that though. Like all of us it takes some time for Elmer to accept who he is but in the end he sees that patchwork is just who he is!

Hilda Must Be Dancing

Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson is a lovely story about a big hippo that loves to dance, although her neighbors aren’t as keen. See Hilda is bog and when she dances she shakes and rattles everything, it’s noisy and disruptive and is making her friends very angry. They suggest that she try new hobbies, but knitting and singing won’t do it’s simply not in her heart, Hilda needs to move and groove!  I loves that a solution is found that makes everyone happy, that Hilda doesn’t have to give up her passion, but that she isn’t so selfish as to simply say ” too bad” to her friends either.

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!

Salt Map of The Earth

by Katy

This activity is messy, but not at all difficult and can easily be adapted for different ages. If your child has sensory issues, it can also be an opportunity to work on breaking down some of those barriers as well.

For this project you will need the following:

1. A piece of stiff cardboard, foam, or poster board
2. Salt ( 3/4 a cup)
3. Flour (1/4 cup)
4. Water
5. 1 tsp. cream of tartar (optional)
6. Print out of the Earth
7. Food coloring (optional)

First, glue your print out of the earth onto your piece of poster board. I ran out of poster board, so I used the top of a gift box, which worked great. My print out is a little sad, but Charlie’s not picky, so we jut went with it.

The next step is to make your map paste. Combine the salt and flour and cream of tartar in a bowl and then slowly add water until you have a paste-like substance. The cream of tartar is supposed to help with the consistency, but if you don’t have any, you’ll just have a chunkier paste. Add drops of food coloring if you’d like your map to have a color other than white–we used green.

Take your paste and then spread it over the land areas of your map. You can be as precise as you like depending on the age of your child. Charlie was about three when we did this, so we were just glopping the paste onto the land parts of our map. As I’ve mentioned in the past, he also has some sensory issues (which are improving!), so he wasn’t thrilled about touching the paste. I ended up being the paster for the most part. If your child doesn’t mind, encourage them to create mountains, valleys, and maybe a river channel. For older children, you can find a topographic map and encourage them to match it as much as possible. 

Allow the paste to air dry and you’ll have a three-dimensional map. After it was dry, Charlie loved his map and spent a lot of time checking it out (some with his mouth I will confess). Might not have been exactly what I envisioned, but if he enjoys it, then who am I to judge?

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Katy is a mom of one ( with two on the way) who loves art, mystery novels, and anything involving peanut butter–she blogs about raising her little miracle at Bird on the Street.

X marks the spot

Naptime Creation
Treasure Map!

This easy peasy treasure map is so much more than a craft, it is a tool for learning and endless fun. Although I have this listed as a naptime creation younger preschoolers could do this with a lot of adult help, but kids of all ages will enjoy the games played withthe maps once they are made.
  1. Gather your materials. You will need some white paper, permanent markers ( see why it’s not a toddler activity?), used coffee grinds in the filter, and some ribbon.
  2. Using permanent markers draw a treasure map. I like to use things in my backyard as the “stops” in the map. I have our trees, a basket ball and blocks – you don not have to use real things. However for the activity below using real things will make it easier.
  3. Taking out most of the coffee grinds rub the outside of the filter all over your map to make it look old and dirty! Let dry. You can also use tea but it takes much longer and we all know how much kids love to wait.
  4. Randomly rip the edges to make the map look more authentic!
  5. Roll up and scrunch and secure with a ribbon!
All Ages
Treasure Hunt
A few years ago I had a small but amazing class of 2-3 year olds who challenged me because they were such smart little people. In an effort to find a fun outdoor activity I developed this map game. I would draw a map and together we would all follow it. Using your map you can go to each “stop” then you must complete a challenge before moving on.Here is where I snuck in some totally unrelated learning. At the stops the challenges were things like : Sing the alphabet, find something blue, jump in the air 5 times, find a word that rhymes with pig… anything but they loved it. After a few times playing with me they became the masterminds and developed their own challenges- pretty cool for children who weren’t even potty trained!

With my toddler we went to the park and hid his new ball. We busted out the map( that I made ) and followed the pictures. We counted to ten, reached up high, found something red and touched our noses! As you can see you have to fit the challenges to the specific child but trust me, everyone will be having so much fun they won’t even notice all the learning they are doing!