Learning on Vacation: Map Skills for Kids


Learning on Vacation: Map Skills for Kids

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It is time to start planning for vacation!

Deciding where your family is going to visit on vacation takes a fair amount of work – are you going to visit a city, a small town, a theme park, or a national park?

I am a very visual person so once we decide on the place we are going to visit I immediately look for information to help me “get my bearings”.  One of my favorite vacation planning resources is always a map.

My children have learned to use map skills to help with our vacation planning and to successfully find their way around the place we are visiting .

A map is a visual representation of a place or of information about a place. The place could be small, like a room, or larger, like a house, neighborhood, city, state, country, planet, solar system, or galaxy. North Star Geography, Lesson 1

North Star Geography

As a Brand Ambassador for Bright Ideas Press we have received a complimentary copy of North Star Geography.  We will offer honest insights about how this program is working in real life with our family.

Basic Map Terms

Here are a few basic map related terms kids of all ages should be familiar with.  Begin your map skills lessons by reviewing these terms with your children:

Reference Map – This type of map will have places of interest clearly marked and labeled (the opposite would be an outline map where no details are provided.)

Road Map – Roads will be marked and labeled, helping you find your way to different locations.

Map Title – The title of the map will let you know what you are looking at.

Scale – The scale will help you decipher distance on the map.  Understanding if the scale is represented in feet or miles will help you understand how large the areas is and the distance between locations.

Legend/Key – The legend explains the symbols, colors, or patterns found on the map.

Compass Rose – This will identify the cardinal directions- north, south, east, and west.

Using Map Skills During our Trip to Washington DC

To give you some ideas for “learning on vacation”, here are a few ways we reinforced map skills during our recent trip to Washington DC.

My children love to study United States history so we decided to supplement their studies with a visit to our nation’s capital.  We only had a few days to spend in the city so we knew we had to create a game plan to see as many places on their “to see” list as possible.

To help us learn more about the many wonderful sites around the city we purchased a Washington, D.C. Travel Guide that included a road map of the city, with many of the “Points of Interest” clearly marked.

The kids identified many of the places they wanted to visit and used the map to understand where each place was located within the city.  They used the road map to decide which direction we could walk to see as many sites as possible.

Learning on Vacation: Map Skills for Kids

When we went inside each building we picked up a map to help us understand how the building was laid out and what we could find on each floor.

The map of the Capitol Visitor Center included details such as elevators, security areas, restaurants and gift shops.

Learning on Vacation: Map Skills for Kids

The map of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History highlighted some of the “must see” exhibits such as the First Ladies’ Dresses, the Star-Spangled Banner, and the Greensboro Lunch Counter.  The map of Arlington National Cemetery noted many Places of Interest and Notable Graves we could see on our walk through the cemetery.

Learning on Vacation: Map Skills for Kids

Tips for learning on vacation by building map skills:

  • Help your children find maps (printed or online) before you leave on vacation.  This will help them understand the “lay of the land” before they arrive.
  • When looking at a map of the area you are visiting, ask children to identify the map’s TITLE, LEGEND, and SCALE.
  • Help your child identify two points on the map and ask them to determine the best path to travel between the locations.
  • Have your children help determine a plan for the day – using the map, identify the path you will take, and the transportation you will use, in order to see and do everything on your agenda.
  • Document your travels using a map.  At the end of each day, highlight the route you traveled and mark the things you did and saw along the way.

We wish you safe and happy travels!

Be sure to stop back soon for more hands-on Geography activities and ideas!

North Star Geography & WonderMaps Combo


  1. Thanks for linking up to the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Bloghop!

  2. Anytime we head somewhere new; the zoo, Disney World, etc. I give the kids the map and let them navigate us around. I don’t usually think to get them maps ahead of time though; not sure why since that would be so useful!

  3. We are map geeks, but I haven’t done a lot of formal work with the kids and maps. It is on my plan this fall, but this gives me some great ideas to be adding in along the way. I found this on the finishing strong link up. I am pinning this one.


  1. […] your vacation? The learning doesn’t need to stop. This great Map Skills for Kids post from Education Possible includes a lesson, tips, a review, and more. Tweak it to fit your vacation, […]