Saturday, February 6, 2010

10 Geography Activities for Two Year Olds

Thanks to the suggestion of Christy at Superheroes and Princesses, lunchtime and dinnertime have looked like this at our house lately.  Before you get all angry at her, she's not responsible for our overeating of chicken nuggets and french fries (that's all me).  But she did suggest the book that has become this week's mealtime entertainment tool:

The Scrambled States of America (Hardcover), by Laurie Keller.  Kansas is bored (see excerpt).  So he decides, with the help of his best friend, Nebraska, to throw a party.  All of the states come.  They decide at the party to swap places for a change.  This seems to be a great idea, at first.  But then Kansas, who changed places with Hawaii, is now more bored than ever stuck out in the ocean by himself.  The southern states are freezing in the north, and the northern states are getting sunburned in the South.  Eventually, normalcy returns as the states go back to their usual spots.  The book's charm is multilayered, with a main story that is enjoyable and witty, alongside clever commentary from the states peppered throughout.  I added this one right to our wishlist (probably soon to go into our shopping cart), along with the sequel, the Scrambled States of America Talent Show.
"All day long we just sit here in the middle of the country. We never GO anywhere. We never DO anything, and we NEVER meet any NEW states!"
Bookworm's interest at 2 years, 2 months: For a long time, we couldn't get past the first page (which is just a U.S. map), because he is so enamored of playing with maps lately.  But I have read him the entire book twice now, and he stares in rapt attention, pointing now and then to particular states he recognizes.  It is definitely geared toward older children, but I think since he likes it now, he'll REALLY like it later.  He also loves the maps and images of the states at the end of the book.  I tried to get across the concept that the states have moved all around and are now in the wrong places, and that they are being funny. I think that is as much of the storyline as he can pick up right now.

Related Activities i.e. 10 Geography Activities for Two Year Olds

Our son's interest in geography has exploded these last couple of months, but it is a bit of a challenge to come up with games that are suitable for his age level.  I know some of these may be better suited for an older child, and I would never suggest pushing your child if he/she is not interested.  Here is what our son most enjoys:
    Melissa & Doug USA Map 51-Piece Floor Puzzle
1.  Ask him to find places by name ("Where is California?") or to name a place ("What is the name of this state?").  This is the one we do most often -- daily if not hourly lately.

2.  Who lives where?  We have many relatives spread around the globe, and I like to ask him who lives in what state/country.

3.  Rhyming.  He enjoys finding place names that rhyme ("Nebraska and Alaska," "Nigeria and Algeria," etc.)

4.  Places Out of Context.  The back of the Scrambled States book contains a few pages with images of each state and some facts.  I was surprised to see how many of the states he could recognize out of context this way.  So I thought today that I might try to create some cardstock states, with or without the state names on them (maybe I'll write the name on the back of the card).  I think he'd have fun with those.

5.  Stories/Facts About Places (a.k.a. "Mommy tell you!").  I got a little sick of names one day, and started trying to tell him simple facts about each state, such as "Mississippi has a big river" and "California has a famous bridge."

Hugg-a-Planet Hugg-A-Planet
6.  Talking About What States/Countries Are Near Each Other.  I don't know if this deserves an entire number entry on its own, but he likes to do this.  If we have him find Arizona, for example, he'll say "Arizona near California and Nevada!"

7.   Iphone Games.  I downloaded a geography game to my iphone last week, and he loves clicking on it and trying to make it buzz or ding, but to really play would require, at the very least, being able to read.  I would like to find him a simple country identification game, where I read the question to him and he locates it on the map, but in general, I think most of the games are geared toward older kids. 

8.  Puzzles and Board Games.  So far, we just use a melissa and doug states puzzle and our globe.  The games I have seen seem better geared toward readers.  I just discovered these Geopuzzles, which look wonderful and are available for five continents.  I just leave the states map assembled on our coffee table.  We sometimes look at Risk together too, but since some of the place names have changed and many aren't labeled, it is a little confusing for him.

9.  YouTube.  We have not found many geography videos he loves (have any suggestions? please share!), but a couple of cute ones are this continents video and this one re: countries.  He generally only likes videos with songs. 

10.  Books.  Last, but not least!  So far we have only really read the Scrambled States and our atlas (thanks Britt for that idea).

How do you have fun with geography in your house?  Have you posted about any geography related crafts, activities, games, etc. on your blog?  If so, please share a link to your post in the comments.


Raising a Happy Child said...

Obviously :) We are on a big geography kick this year, and we are just getting started. You can read about it every week - I started with the world, however, because I find it quite more fascinating than US only.

Infant Bibliophile said...

@Raising I have been enjoying your posts re: geography. It is interesting to see it from the perspective of an older child! We started with the world map too (on my globe), which was fun because we have family in new zealand. But he also enjoys the U.S. stuff since he has the U.S. map puzzle. My husband just agreed we should get at least one of the world region puzzles, and I think he will love those.

Christy said...

I'm so glad you like that book. It's a fun read. We have the talent show book too.

I love the activities you posted!

We do a lot of crafts related to states. We have made state animals, state flowers, and even monuments while learning about different states. We also try to make some kind of food that is popular in the state (we made shoo fly pie for PA and chili for TX). I always look for interesting facts about the states and try to interest my children that way. Tall tales are fun - Pecos Bill for TX or Paul Bunyan for Maine, etc. We made the Liberty Bell for PA. You get the idea. I'm rambling, sorry!

Infant Bibliophile said...

@Christy You are totally my hero when it comes to teaching about the states. I LOVE your approach. :)

vanessa said...

Juliet recently became very interested in maps and countries and states, too! We've been having fun with our Melissa and Doug puzzle--I will remove 5 to 10 states place them on the table and then tell her to put them back. She works at it and then when they are all back in, she gets to ring a little handbell! (That's her favorite part.) We play this while I am getting ready for dinner. The variations are endless! I take out different ones every time and she searches to put them back.

Sara said...

Look on YouTube for They Might Be Giants' "Alphabet of Nations". It's a catchy song with lots of rhyming country names (in alphabetical order). And the whole album - Here Come the ABCs - is pretty great. :)

Playing by the book said...

For videos what about wildlife clips that show the landscape in different parts of the world?
Great post!

MaryAnne said...

We have a felt continents map that my kids love to play with - I blogged about it here, nearly a year ago:

There is a globe game from my own childhood that you might enjoy playing with your son. Close your eyes, spin the globe, and then place your finger on the globe randomly. Then look at where you landed and talk about what it would be like to live there.

Lisa said...

Rand McNally has some really nice flashcards, has them. We bought them locally at a travel store as well.

Christy said...

You are too sweet! Thanks.

Elise said...

I recently did a blog post about the activities we did (with my 3 year old and one year old) to learn more about Australia. The link is:

Little Family Fun said...

I've always loved looking at maps. What great ideas!

Sarah said...

I have just discovered your blog and am SO impressed! I work in the children's section of a public library and have a two-year-old toddler myself. How lucky the infant bibliophile is to have a mommy who takes such care in choosing books for him!

My son's room is decorated in a geography theme--a wall-sized map from the National Geographic catalog (it goes up like wallpaper), a cross-stitch that looks like a medieval map of the world, a shelf on his bookcase just for books about other countries, a mobile of kids around the world, and international doo-dads that I had collected during my years as an ESL and French teacher (figurines from Korea, finger puppets from Peru, a stuffed Eiffel Tower, etc.).

While we do have some globe- and map-type toys and games, I had put them in the closet to bring out "when he is older." Well, he just turned two--"older" is now, isn't it! Your post has inspired me to get these items out and start telling him more about the other countries rather than just use them for nursery decor. Thanks!

Sarah said...

Sheepish PS: I just now went to add your URL to my blogroll and saw that it was already there! So I guess this isn't a new discovery after all. Anyway, I will be a regular reader from now on.

Here's my review of some Sesame Street videos from other countries:

Zoe @ Playing by the book said...

I've linked to this today!

Faith | UPrinting said...

Great! Now, I know what activity to offer my nephew and not just play and play and play. You gave me lots of ideas to do with my little nephew. Thanks.

Jessica Monte said...

Ooh, I love this book idea! Where did you find it?

Lindsay said...

Great activities! Thanks for all of the ideas!

Pam said...

Oh this is SUCH a great post! Our little guy will be two in March so not too far behind your little reader. Our library has a great oversized globe (there are neat picture in my Sunday Salon post from last week) and we have the big squishy globe. Needless to say we've been on a globe (or Gobe as we're not quite at "L"'s, yet...)kick lately. Fun stuff!

Basbusa's Mama said...

I found this book in a used-book store this weekend, and immediately thought it might be something you guys would like?
It calls itself "a child's first book of maps," but it's not "maps" in the usual sense of the word. It gives three pages about how an animal goes between some cacti, around a tree and onto a boulder, and then the fourth page shows a simple, illustrated map showing the route, with the three landmarks on it. This repeats for several different animals, and then at the end all the mini-maps are tied together. So, it's not geography about real places, but it does do a great job of explaining how maps correspond to the real world. And the illustrations are lovely.