Teach Your Children How to Navigate
by S.M. Ford
I just heard a true story of a women who drove from the north part of her state to a campground to meet her family. She went 165 miles south and east. She should have gone south and west 179 miles. Yes, the campground names were extremely similar. But shouldn’t she have known the name of her destination town? In my opinion, yes!
To make matters worse, since her cell phone battery was almost dead, she drove home again instead of driving to the right place and said she’d “try again tomorrow.” (Direct from the wrong destination would have been 193 miles. Back home and to correct place 344 miles.)
Yes, many of us love the navigation option on our phones. But we should always have a clear idea where we are going without the map app. Besides dead phone batteries, there are dead spots where phones don’t work. Our duty as parents is to teach our children how to navigate safely even when technology fails.
· Teach them left and right early on.
· Later talk about north, south, east, and west.
o Show them how the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
o And if they know either, they can determine the general direction of the others.
· Show them how maps are marked with the same.
· Teach them how we also use the terms, left and right. “I’m looking east, so south is to my right.”
· Point out places they know on a state map.
o “Here’s where we live. Grandma and Grandpa live south of us.”
o Use city names.
· Reinforce these concepts.
o “We’re driving into the sunset, so we are going west.”
o “Our living room faces north.”
· Show them a community map.
o ”Here’s the park. It’s north of your school.”
· Help them draw a map of their neighborhood.
· Teach them about landmarks and street names.
o “We know we’re getting close because there’s the bookstore.”
· Teach them to read road signs.
o Make sure they understand what they mean.
· When traveling talk about how far and how long it will take to get from one point to another.
o Mention where (the town or city) you will be stopping for lunch on the way.
o Indicate when you pass from one state to another.
* Make it fun. Our kids got used to their father saying, “dong!” every time we passed the 45th parallel marked by a sign on the freeway.
More how to:
· When out for a walk, ask him to guide you to a familiar place.
o “Which way do we go?”
o “Do we walk beside the river or cross over?”
· At twelve your child can sit in the front seat of the car. Ask her to tell you how to get to a place she rides to often.
o “So, at this next intersection, am I going to turn left or right?”
o “What street do I take next?”
o “Do I turn before or after the grocery store?”
· Make sure they know the names of the major roads and highways around you.
· It’s even a good idea to explain the interstate system.
o The interstates ending in five run north south. The ones in the tens run east west.
o Our youngest daughter had her learner’s permit and we were working on making sure she understood the three major freeways in our city. One went north south. The second ran east west. And the third was a loop to bypass the largest city off of the north south freeway. We’d draw it on our kitchen whiteboard. Then label it and go over it with her. We told her she would not get her license if she didn’t get this down. That motivated her and she learned.
· On long trips, provide them a paper map and encourage them to tell you what town is coming up next.
· Let them play with a map app on a phone.
Teaching your child to have a sense of direction will be a lifelong benefit.
· Why Children Still Need to Read (and Draw) Maps – includes many resources
· Teaching Basic Map Skills to Young Children – even includes some book recommendations
· How to Teach Your Kids Map Reading Skills – map learning and a Lego project
· Map It! with Young Children – useful in understanding what your child might be ready for
· Follow the Directions – simple online game
· Beginners Guide to Geocaching with Kids – outdoor activity
· Brain Game: How is Your Sense of Direction? – is it on your left or right?
About the Author
SM Ford is a Pacific Northwest gal, who has also lived in the Midwest (Colorado and Kansas) and on the east coast (New Jersey).
She and her husband have two daughters and two sons-in-law and three grandsons. She can't figure out how she got to be old enough for all that, however.
Sue likes traveling and animals, especially those in the cat family.
You can read Sue’s “Real Parenting” column on the 4th Thursday each month here at Mustard Seed Sentinel.