Red is a voracious reader; I may have mentioned this before, see this post about his reading habits.
We have a globe in our living room, and we frequently bring it over to the dining table when discussing countries or places we plan to visit. Normally it sits on a side table next to our sofa where we read books, and it is easy for Red to pick it up and twist it around to find somewhere as he is reading. Having traveled across the US to move to Idaho from upstate New York, and having flown to Scotland, he has a vague idea of distances, and we often use these and compare them to how far away other places are when we find them in books. My husband frequently travels to Japan on business and we have used the globe to compare how long it would take if he traveled east or west.
Red is getting ever more interested in destinations within the States, particularly since our summer road trip to Colorado. I love to look at maps with him while we are considering trips, but the amount of detail on them can be pretty intimidating. So I was delighted to find this kids’ road atlas by Rand McNally recently. We looked at it a little before we left, and I kept it handy on the trip.
There is an introductory section on how to use an atlas, which is written in a very appealing way for young kids; Red loved the idea they presented that reading a map is an adventure or a mystery.
Each state is covered in one page (or a double page spread for some of the larger states), with a basic map showing only the main interstates and roads, and a handful of the largest towns. While obviously if you’re visiting a particular state or city you might want to look at a more detailed map, this is great for providing kids with an overview. There is a map of the US at the top of every page, highlighting which particular state is covered. There is also some information like the capital, state’s nickname, flower and bird. On every page there is also a fun activity like a word search or puzzle.
Red and I used this to look at Idaho, Utah, and Colorado, the states we drove through on our road trip. It was next to his seat in the car, and on several occasions, as we turned onto different interstates or moved between states I noticed him picking it up and checking out where we were.
This is a paperback 80-page book and comes in at around $7. That meant I felt comfortable with Red marking up the pages of the atlas; while we decided not to in the end, we talked about coloring Idaho on the US map in the top corner of each page so that he could see where the state was in relation to where he lived. For the Colorado page we considered marking the place we stayed, and the route we would take to get there.
As a bonus, there are pages for Canada and Mexico too. This was great for us when we flew to Canada last month for a family wedding. I hadn’t expected to be able to use this atlas to help Red visualize that trip, and while there is obviously even less detail on a single page spread for a whole country, we were able to show Red the city we would fly to (Halifax) and where his relatives lived.
I can see us dipping into this Atlas frequently as we plan North West trips over the next year. It is small enough that Red can comfortably store it near his car seat, and examine it while we are driving. I’m so pleased we found it! Red is excited to have his own map, and I’m hoping that sense of ownership will lead to him being more invested in the outdoor trips we plan in the future.
Do you have a favorite map you use with your kids? If so, I’d love to hear about it!