Map Making Activities for Kids

Have students create their own world maps.

Having your students create their own maps is a strong introduction to the subject of cartography or, map making. Explain that maps are extremely important in history and that before there were street signs or road maps explorers like Lewis and Clark had to create them from scratch. Talk about the different kinds of maps like road maps, weather charts and geographical maps. Make sure to have a lot of examples present as some students will learn better visually.

1 Treasure Map

Creating a treasure map with your students or children is part craft project and part fantasy. First you will need to create the old parchment look for your map by ripping the edges, crumpling the paper, pouring coffee on it, blowing dry it and then finally draw the map. Have your students include the cardinal directions along with various landmarks throughout the map. Some landmarks include the Skeleton Jungle, the Waterfalls of Doom and the Serpent Pass. Let them create as many rivers, mountains and houses as they wish on the map. Don’t forget the X to mark the spot for the treasure. Students can come up with a story for the map as well.

2 Draw the World

Even if your kids do not have a very clear picture of how the world looks on a map, give them the opportunity to represent the world as they see fit. Give each child a blank sheet of paper, plenty of crayons and a list of the seven continents. This project is not about getting the map correct as many students will be nowhere close. The Draw the World project is about seeing how students see the world and what their current level of geographic understanding is. Try doing the activity again after a geography lesson or two.

3 Map the Town

Take your kids on a walk around the town or at least around the block near your school. Upon returning, tell your students that you are going to create a physical map using blocks and other materials as a class. Before putting anything down on your map, tell the students that everyone will need to agree on the major parts of the town like the school and any landmarks nearby. This activity is a great way to explain the top-down nature of maps and it helps students to picture things three-dimensionally. Take a picture of the map and compare it to an actual close-up map of the area.

4 Create a Town

This project is your students’ opportunity to take on the role of city planner. Tell them that they have all been given a large plot of land (represented by a blank sheet of paper) and they have to create a functional community from scratch. Tell them that their towns need the necessities and not just fun amusement parks and movie theaters. Discuss as a class what you believe these necessities would be. Then let the kids loose and see what they come up with. Have the students present their towns as if they are bidding for the right to have the town constructed using a persuasive speech.

Bryan Cohen has been a writer since 2001 and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a double degree in English and dramatic art. His writing has appeared on various online publications including his personal website Build Creative Writing Ideas.