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Top tips to get children using paper maps

Get Out With The Kids • Map reading • Jul 27, 2023 • 5 mins

Find top tips on how to teach children to map read and make it fun with 'Get Out With The Kids'.

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With technology taking over the world, it's easy to forget fundamental skills like map reading. It's an essential outdoor skill to master. Exposing children to maps at an early age is a good idea so they can start relating the world they see to what's printed on a map.

In a previous post, OS looked at how building mental maps is a fantastic way to build spatial awareness in children and how this can facilitate association of objects and symbols to places on a handmade map around the home.

showing children how to map read 

Whilst this is a great way to get kids to start understanding how to use maps, the next step is to get them outdoors and using actual maps, but to do it in a way that doesn’t leave them overawed. By introducing an OS paper map and getting them to relate to it in a real-world environment will help them to further develop awareness of their surroundings and to start understanding what different symbols, lines and colours mean. 

childs hand on map

Tips to help introduce paper maps to children

1. Put away the compass

For little children, a compass is a big distraction. Learning how to use a compass comes later once they have a good understanding of maps.

2. Start with a smaller map

Having a big map put in front of them can be a bit overwhelming for children. Print out a small section of a map and put it in a plastic wallet. It's much easier for them to manage and concentrate on – with the digital version of OS Maps you can print sections of map in a variety of scales. 

father and son map reading 

3. Simplify the map

Similar to drawing mental maps of the home, draw a simplified version of a map for the outdoors (using a paper map as a guide) and go on a treasure hunt for real world items on the journey drawn out. Highlight things such as post boxes, bridges and rivers for them to find and mark as found.

4. Teach map symbols

Learn some basic symbols in this guide to OS Map symbols before going outside. After your kids have become familiar with the map symbols, pick a walk with symbols they will recognise, then get outside and walk it. See if they can spot the symbol on the map and the real-world item.

Published: Jul 27, 2023 Edited: Jul 27, 2023

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