Famous Landmark Blocks

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!

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.

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.

Books To Check On A Map

I recently got an email from Jane asking if I had any suggestions for books that mention cities, regions or countries that could be used as a launching pad for some geography lessons. These books are some of my favorites, they can be the start of a live long interest in other cultures, countries and travel.

Madeline in London by Ludwig Bemelmans . Let me just start by saying that like Babar and Barbapapa I have fond childhood memories of Madeline. So this review may be a little biased. The rhyming text is fast to read and fun too, I would warn parents that they allude to making glue out of dead horses, little guys won’t pick up on it but it may horrify a sharp 3 year old. So pre read it if you want to omit anything. Also a horse is thought dead, for a brief moment before it’s revealed to just be sleeping. It sounds much worse than it really is. I love that it includes real London sights in it’s illustrations, such as Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey , the Tower Bridge and Trafalgar Square. After reading this to my Pre K class ( omitting the horses and glue reference) we got down a globe and found where Paris and London were. For weeks 2 little girls played airplane and their destination was always London. A single book can really open doors!

My Granny Went to Market by Stella Blackstone is a book I got to know very well when writing lessons for Itty Bitty Bookworm preschool curriculum using it. This a a really fantastic book that is filled with language arts, geography and math lessons. Granny is a traveler and everywhere she goes she picks up a number of souvenirs. Not only are a number of countries like Switzerland, Mexico and Peru visited, but the souvenirs she buys relate to the country’s culture and offer even more learning opportunities for interested kids.  The rhyming text will enchant even the youngest world traveler , this is a must for any jet setting family!

D is for Dancing Dragon: A China Alphabet by Carol Crane is a in valuable book when teaching about China and Chinese New Year, it is more than a simple alphabet book, going into detail about lanterns, chopsticks, panda bears and so much more. What I love about these books is that younger children can be shown the pictures and given a easy to digest synopsis of the text, while older children can read the whole book. The illustrations by Zong-Zhou Wang will make the most reluctant traveler want to get on a plane to china, they are simply spectacular!

Hugo and Miles In I’ve Painted Everything by Scott Magoon is going on my Christmas list. I have renewed this book for months from my local library. I finally have to return this book and I just don’t want to! The book is all about Hugo a painter who has painter’s block. He goes to Paris with his best friend Miles for inspiration, and among the sites, the masterpieces and thanks to the Eiffel tower he finds it! I love this book and my son just eats it up. He wants to go to Paris to the “Moosay Dor-see” to see Van Gogh and climb the Eiffel tower thanks to Hugo!

There’s a Dolphin in the Grand Canal by John Bemelmans Marciano was a book I grabbed knowing i was going to write this post but the first time I read it I fell in love. It’s all about a little boy stuck helping out in his families cafe in Venice wishing he was somewhere more exciting than Venice. Then something very exciting happens but no one believes him!  What I love so much about this book is that it gets to the heart of why people travel , to see things that they have never seen before. If you live in Venice St.Marks Square and The Rialto Bridge are ho hum but if you are from Winnipeg they rock!  I also love that there are tourists in this book using all different languages that are explained in an appendix at the back of the book. Very cool find!

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!

The Falling Flowers by Jennifer B. Reed is the perfect book for this craft ! I was a little too loud when I found it at the library, my son told me to shhh! The story is very sweet, it’s about a grandmother taking her young granddaughter on a surprise outing in Tokyo. It turns out that she is taking her to see the cherry trees in full bloom just as her grandmother had done with her. It’s a nice look at the softer side of Tokyo , a city I know I always imagine as only steal, cement and neon lights!