My 5 year old is currently very into maps which makes me happy seeing as how I have embarrassingly survived 3 and a half decades knowing little to no geography. He’s learning all the names of the continents and oceans in his Montessori school and is in love with the 90’s cartoon, Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego (inexpensively available through this Amazon Affiliate link). I decided to support his love of geography at home through this homemade learning world map with labels that can be easily removed so he and his younger siblings can practice their reading skills and geography knowledge simultaneously.
To make this map, I traced a wall map we already had, but since not everyone may already own a wall map, I’ve included a document which can be printed out and taped together to use as a template for tracing a wall map onto larger paper. I make no promises about the precise accuracy of this tape-together-world-map. It is exactly what I traced from my map, but I left out minor details for simplicity. I figure when my kids start asking me things like, “Hey Mom, why aren’t there any Great Lakes on here?” or “Where’s Hawaii?” it will be time to invest in a better professionally printed and laminated wall map. For now, this inexpensive, homemade one is entirely sufficient.
Recommended Age Range: Preschool, Kindergarten, Elementary
Time Required: ~2 hours (It took me a bit longer, but I had a 1 year old “helping.”)
Difficulty: Moderate (Hardest part is using the contact paper to “laminate” the large sheet of paper to make the labels easily removable. Could also just apply a strip of packing tape where you want the labels to be placed (or write the labels directly onto the map, which would be easiest, but remove the “interactive” feature.)
Cost: Less than $5 in used supplies
- A large piece of paper such as butcher paper (my map is 32″ by 21″)
- Blue and green paint (I used powdered paint in blue, yellow, and white to mix the colors I wanted)
- Paint brushes
- Containers to hold paint (such as old food containers)
- Contact paper
- Paper (for printing a tage-together template map if needed, ocean/continent labels, and a control map for comparison)
- Tape (optional: only if you need to make the template map and for “playing” the game by taping the labels to the laminated map)
Supplies & Tools:
- Black marker
- Laminator and laminating sheets for labels (optional: could use contact paper)
- Paper trimmer (optional: makes cutting out laminated labels easier)
- Print out, cut out, and tape together the tape-together-template-world-map if necessary.
- Trace the template map onto the large sheet of paper using a black marker.
- Paint the continents green and the ocean blue, then let it dry.
- Outline the continents in black again if desired.
- Trim the borders of the paper if desired and “laminate” the map using contact paper. Note that this was the hardest part in my opinion. I used a large board game box to mark with a pencil where I wanted to trim off excess paper and to make sure I had right angles on my corners. Also, it can be difficult to peel off the backing to such a large sheet of contact paper, so it’s helpful to have a helper. For me it was my 5 year old. If the backing starts to tear as shown in the picture below, make sure to fix the problem right away by peeling up the stuck piece. Since my map was bigger than a single sheet of contact paper, I used two pieces on each the front and the back, making sure to overlap them slightly since the contact paper did not stick firmly to my powder paint.
- Next print out and cut out the continent and ocean labels.
- Laminate the labels using either a laminator or contact paper and cut them out.
- Tape the map to the wall at child height.
- Print out a control map so that the child can determine on their own where each label should go.
- When your child wants to play the “game”, help them roll up tape to stick on the back of the labels to place them on the map (or use double-sided tape). For younger children who are not yet reading, tell them what the labels say.
Click here for more Geography activities for kids.