There are plenty of good reasons to teach children to read a map. Navigation, of course, is the primary one. Whether it's being able to move safely around wild spaces, or plan a route across a busy city, map reading skills bring confidence, and opens your eyes to the world around you. Curiosity is a huge part of human nature. The urge to explore, discover and dream is what shapes mankind's history and development, and it is this story that is documented in our maps.
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Looking at historical maps
The world's earliest maps date to Neolithic times, and are found carved into cave walls and stone tablets. It is easy to see these ancient depictions as a simple historical record, but they were also essential tools, just like the modern maps of today. Designed to guide, explain and navigate they contain a snapshot of everything that was important at that moment in time. They also represent a sharing of knowledge which has defined man's development into what we are today. A great way to start kids thinking about maps is to get them to draw their own. Start with spaces that hold meaning to them. Their bedroom, garden or route to school are all great places to start. Treasure maps are another fabulous way to get kids excited about maps. Get them designing their own for friends to try out is a brilliant example of learning through play.
Story telling and maps go hand in hand. If our earliest maps conjure up stories of hunting expeditions and forays for food, later ones tell tales of exploration into uncharted territories. The Beautiful Carta Marina is a wonderful example of this. First published in 1539, it depicts armies and sea monsters. Using a map to tell a story is a brilliant way to encourage kids to translate what they see on paper into images in their head, and you can find plenty of ancient maps online to spark your imagination.
The earliest map we can find of where we live in the wonderful Andrews’ and Dury’s Map of Wiltshire, 1773, shown above. Showing a different road layout in our village to the one that exists now, what were once main routes are now footpaths across fields. By comparing this with the aerial map on OS Maps we have been able to pick out some of our local archaeology which was previously hidden from us.
Like many kids, mine adore technology, so they are huge fans of the OS Maps Online. Being able to plot and follow our route whilst out, really helps them translate what they see on the screen to the features on the ground. With the new OS Maps Aerial 3D layer having been recently introduced, it really is a great way to get the family out walking and exploring the local area. If you would like to try out OS Maps online for yourself, check out their 7 day free trial here.
Out of all the wonderful maps that we have available to us, our absolute favourite is our Custom Made Craft Invaders Map. Paper maps are a wonderful thing, but it's often the case that you want to know what's just over from where it ends. By creating your own unique map with OS Custom Made maps you can put your home, favourite campsite or anywhere you choose in the centre of your map. The opportunity to customise the cover and wording on your map, makes it totally unique to you and your family, and a fabulous idea for a gift.
Once kids have had the opportunity to handle and examine some maps, is the time teach them how to interpret them. Our introduction to basic map reading runs through both creating a map, and how to understand grid references, and is a great starting point for both adults and kids learning to read a map.