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’d be starting to suspect that there was some kind of mix-up at the hospital.
When they were little, they loved hands-on activities, but as they’ve gotten older, they prefer to use workbooks for school. If you’re a hands-on homeschooling mama like me, you just can imagine how disappointed that makes me.
However, when it comes to geography, there are still a few ways I can get them at least a teensy bit interested in hands-on projects. So, I wanted to share these simple hands-on geography activities with you because I know there must be other hands-on learning mamas out there who gave birth to workbook-loving kids. I may start a support group for us.
(Don’t miss the giveaway at the end!)
1. Cooking. The way to a man’s heart and, apparently, a teenager’s is through his (or her) stomach. Try getting your kids excited about 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, visiting a restaurant that specializes in the country’s food is a great alternative. In some instances that may even be a better choice than cooking it yourself if the restaurant you choose has made an effort to recreate the ambiance of the country from which its cuisine originated.
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 actually 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. One time we planned an extra day to see Savannah, Georgia on the way home from Hilton Head. Another time, we managed an unforgettable side trip to St. Augustine, Florida and Kennedy Space Center on the way home from vacation.
3. Music and art. If you’ve got a musically-inclined child or an artsy one, sometimes you can entice them to participate in activities related to a country’s music or art culture. At the very least, you can listen to the traditional music or view the art from the country, but you may even be able to get them excited about recreating the works of the country’s artists or musicians.
It can also be fun to create original art pieces or musical creations inspired by the country you’re studying or to try your hand at creating any unique musical instruments for which the location is known.
4. Maps. One of my workbook-loving kids’ favorite ways to still participate in hands-on geography activities is with maps. For years we have enjoying making salt-dough maps, edible maps, and paper mache maps.
Last year we were introduced to Pin-It Maps! We love them! They’re big, easy to use, colorful, and so thorough. 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 determine what a particular line was supposed to be pointing out.
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 control maps, used for locating sites to label on the pin map, are broken down into four maps per continent – one each showing countries, cities, flags, water and landforms, so they’re easy to read.
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.