Sandbox Geography

So much fun! Tips on teaching geography through active play.
I love eavesdropping on my 5-year-old twins while I drive them to school.
Behind my driver’s seat I hear,
 “Ask Mommy — she’s been around the whole world.”
Then the reply:

“Yeah, but she didn’t go to Texas.”

It’s true. Before kids, before husband even, I took a budget backpacker trip around the world. I visited
twenty countries (but not the state of Texas) in a little over six months.
It was an amazing, life-changing experience.
I hope I can plant the same seed of adventure and cross-cultural curiosity in my own kids. I think the first step is teaching them a little geography.

Fun with the Globe

When my son was about 5, his bedtime was about an hour after the twins’. One of the evening “quiet time” activities he loved was looking at the globe with me. I’m not sure whether he was interested in geography as much as just the normally-out-of-reach “ball that spins” — at least at first.

After the novelty wore off, though, he kept wanting me to get the globe down time and time again. He was fascinated with trying to understand what was where, and what all the various symbols and
lines meant, and even which way the earth spins and where it is in space.

Puzzle Maps for Preschoolers

My girls haven’t shown that same fascination with the globe, but they are all about puzzle maps.


So much fun! Tips on teaching geography through active play.


I love how our U.S. GeoPuzzle has pieces that are shaped like the states (or groups of smaller states) instead of regular jigsaw puzzle shapes. The girls can do this puzzle with help now, and like to assist in assembling the more difficult World GeoPuzzle (affiliate links).What if your kids are a bit younger, though? Can you still teach geography? Sure you can!


Developmentally Appropriate Geography

To be age appropriate, you should avoid having toddlers or preschoolers just memorize facts, though, such as states and capitals. Giving them a grounding in the concepts of geography will serve them better in the long run.

Even when I taught geography to sixth graders, we started at the beginning. We made sure that each student understood how maps worked.
One of my favorite projects was having the kids create a map for their own, imaginary island. As middle schoolers, they were expected to incorporate a required number of physical features and map elements.


Sandbox Geography for Preschoolers

You can do a preschool version of this project in the sandbox.


So much fun! Tips on teaching geography through active play.

Help your child create a little island town inside the sandbox, complete with mountains and roads. Then quickly sketch out their creation for them on paper.

So much fun! Tips on teaching geography through active play.


What you do with the map depends on your child’s interests.
Here are a few ideas . . .
When your child isn’t looking, bury a small toy
in the sand, and mark the spot on the map. Then use the map to find the buried “treasure.”


Build a new road together, and have your child
help you update the map to reflect the change.

So much fun! Tips on teaching geography through active play.
Pretend there is an emergency somewhere on your
island, and draw the route from the fire station to the emergency. Then follow the map with a toy fire truck!


Can you think of any more ways to extend the learning that are concrete and active?


  1. What a fun and awesome hands-on way to learn. Love this. 🙂
    I came here via Mommy Crusader and Her Knights link up. Amazingly, I just comment on a different post of yours that you shared on a different link up. I must like your content. 🙂
    Have a wonderful day.
    Pamela – Literate For Life

  2. I love how you've discussed several levels of geography. Thank you for the inspiring ideas and for linking up at the Saturday Evening Family Friendly Free For All.
    Mommy Crusader

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