4 Hands-on Geography Activities Even Your Hands-off Students Will Love

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Y’all know I love hands-on learning, but my teens? Well, if they didn’t look so much like each other and just like my husband, I might suspect that there a hospital mix-up.

As young children, they loved hands-on activities, but now my teens prefer to use workbooks for school. If you’re a hands-on homeschooling mama like me, you can imagine my horror.

However, when it comes to geography, I still have some tricks up my sleeve for getting them at least a teensy bit interested in hands-on projects. So, for the other hands-on learning mamas out there who gave birth to workbook-loving kids, check out these simple hands-on geography activities for hands-off kids.

And, keep your eyes open; I may start a support group for us.

1. Cooking

Pique your kids’ interest in the culture of the country you’re studying by trying your hand at its culinary delights.

If cooking doesn’t get them excited or you’re not feeling particularly brave, visit a restaurant that specializes in the country’s food. If the restaurant you choose has tried to recreate the ambiance of the country its food is from, it may even be a better choice than cooking it yourself.

classroom maps

2. Travel

I don’t know too many kids who are going to say, “No, Mom. I’d rather stay home and do seat work today. I don’t want to go on a field trip.”

Traveling is a hands-on geography-based activity that most kids will appreciate. Granted, it can be the trickiest, most expensive to plan, but it’s so much fun when you can make it happen.

Some of our most memorable field trips were planned side trips on the way home from vacation. We took an extra day to see Savannah, Georgia on the way home from Hilton Head one year. Another time, we managed an unforgettable side trip to St. Augustine, Florida and Kennedy Space Center on the way home from a beach vacation.

maps for homeschool

3. Music and Art

If you’ve got a musically-inclined or artsy kid, entice them to participate in activities related to a country’s music or art culture. At the very least, you can listen to traditional music or view art from the country. You might even get them excited about recreating the works of the country’s artists or musicians.

It’s also fun to create original art pieces, musical compositions, or musical instruments inspired by the country you’re studying. Didgeridoos for Australia, anyone?

map of Europe

4. Maps

One of my workbook-loving kids still loves doing hands-on geography activities with maps. We’ve always had fun making salt-dough maps, edible maps, and paper mache maps.

Last year we discovered Pin-It Maps! We love them! They’re big, easy to use, colorful, and wonderfully detailed. Last semester, Megan’s workbook history lessons focused heavily on geography. Her biggest complaint was how difficult it was to see and correctly read the maps printed in her workbook.

Y’all, she was not complaining without reason. Often, I couldn’t figure them out either.

We happily switched to Pin-It Maps.

There are over 1100 flag pin labels for countries, major cities, rivers, and landforms. The pin maps don’t have words printed on them, so they don’t overwhelm students with a barrage of clutter.

The labeled control maps are easy to read because they’re broken down into four maps per continent. One each showing countries, cities, flags, water and landforms.

There are so many ways to use Pin-It Maps, which are simple enough for young children, but detailed enough for teens. Check out the free teaching resources on the Pin-It Maps website for ideas and lesson plans.

You can also check out my complete review of Pin-It Maps for more details about how we incorporated the maps with the curriculum we were already using.

What are some of your family’s favorite hands-on geography activities?

This post was sponsored by Pin-It Maps.

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. My teen will still do hands-on projects (especially the edible ones!), but she doesn’t want herself or any of them photographed! A real challenge for a blogging mom!

    Pin-it maps look really well thought out and straightforward to implement. I like that in a school tool. 🙂

    1. Yes, that’s my boy – no paparazzi during school. LOL I can still get my youngest (14) to cooperate most of the time and I can usually convince the boy if I don’t show his face. I don’t get it. He’s such a cutie-patootie. The world needs to see his handsome face. 🙂

  2. This sounds AMAZING! I have a son who will search out the maps in every book! As long as a book has a map, it’s worthy of being read. Thank goodness our Bible does! Hehe…

  3. Thanks for the Pin-it Maps recommendation! Geography is something we have not focused heavily on and I’ve been researching ideas for learning geography without tedious workbooks. (Even my teens are not workbook fans.) I have a question: Do you put them on your wall? Do you have any problems with marks in the wall from the pins? I have VERY limited wall space in my dining room, which doubles as my school room. Can they also be used flat on the table? How do you store them?

    Thanks! I look forward to checking them out.

    1. No, you don’t put them on the wall. They come with a thick, Styrofoam mat and four corner squares to hold the map in place. We stand them on end and store them behind a cabinet or lay them flat on top of the cabinet.

      1. Oh, now I’m REALLY excited!! I was afraid they had to be tacked to the wall and we have no place to put them. Thanks so much for sharing this great resource!

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