How to Teach Children About Cardinal Directions

by Jessica Cook

The cardinal directions represented by the four points of the compass, north, south, east and west. Elementary students can understand cardinal directions when they learn about them in a kid-friendly way. To teach kids cardinal directions, explain the relationship between the four directions and then let the kids explore find their way around using those directions. With a variety of educational activities to suit every child's learning style, you can introduce the concept of cardinal directions in your classroom.

Put up visual aids in your classroom for the four cardinal directions: north, east, south and west. On the east and west walls, place a sign that shows a picture and names one of the cardinal directions. On the east wall, place a cutout of the sun that has an arrow pointing up to show the sunrise; on the west wall, attach a cutout of the sun that has an arrow pointing down to show the sunset. Your classroom is now a tool for teaching the cardinal directions. On the north wall, have an arrow that points up; on the south wall, have an arrow that points down.

Rearrange your classroom so that all seats face the north wall. This makes it easier for your students to practice the cardinal directions. Explain that there are four main directions a person can go: north, east, south and west. Show how you have labeled these directions on the walls.

Ask the students to stand up. Ask them to point forward; this is north. Then, ask them to point to the right; this is east. If they point behind them, this is south. If they point to the left, this is west. Repeat this for a while and then play a version of Simon Says where you tell them to point in a variety of directions and see how many get it right.

Play a song about the cardinal directions. Some children learn better when they have a song or a rhyme to help them memorize information like this.

Play a cardinal direction scavenger hunt game. Ask one student to go in the hallway, and hide a small toy in your room. The other students must direct the student from the hallway to find the hidden toy, telling him only which cardinal direction to go. Play this a few times, letting other children have a turn giving and receiving directions.

Things You Will Need

  • Construction paper and markers
  • Song lyrics
  • Small toy

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