Explore the Many Amazing Uses of Maps!

Whether it’s charting deep-sea discoveries, exploring the cosmos, or finding your way to grandma’s house through the woods, maps are a marvelous way to explore the world around us!

Incorporating maps into children’s early learning can help them develop strong spacial skills, expand their vocabulary, better follow directions, and teach them about different types of measurement. By learning how to translate two-dimensional drawings like a map of your neighborhood into the real, three-dimensional world around them, kids create a richer understanding of their community. They can also start to understand just how wide a world we live in.

Mapping offers opportunities for older students to develop their critical thinking skills. Since many maps represent geographic or political borders, and often provide a record of people, lands, and cultures throughout time, they are an important tool to evaluate how history is represented and by whom. Investigating the technology behind mapping, from lasers scanning distant planets to artworks made of video projections, is another great way to explore STEAM topics in the classroom.

Learn more about all sorts of maps—of the stars, earth, and even the human brain—with the engaging videos, activities, and crafts below. Then, keep the fun going with Learn Along Bingo sheets full of printable activities and everyday learning ideas for children grades Pre-K to 2!

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Developing a Mind for Mapping

What are Maps? | Young Explorers

Grades PreK-K
Abby Brown loves to help kids have fun while learning! In this segment, Abby teaches kids what to look for on a map so that it can be used to navigate your way to where you want to go! Take a look at a city map to practice navigating streets, as well as a zoo map.

Why Children Still Need to Read (and Draw) Maps

Grades K-3
While many skills have become obsolete in the digital age, map reading remains an important tool for building children’s spatial reasoning skills and helping them make sense of our world.

Legislative Districts | Things Explained

Grades 3-8
In this episode of Things Explained, host Sara Hopkins explains how districts are drawn, who draws them, and defines redistricting and gerrymandering.

Cartography and Navigation | Champlain in America

Grades 6-12
Examine the significance of navigation and cartography as we join French explorer Samuel de Champlain’s expeditions to North America. Students will follow Champlain as he is guided by the Indigenous peoples who call this land home and watch as Champlain realizes that he must learn from them to successfully navigate this unfamiliar territory.

NASA | LIDAR 3D Mapping

Grades 9-12
In this video adapted from NASA, learn how lasers can be used to map the surfaces of planets. Animations illustrate how LIDAR — light detection and ranging — uses reflected laser pulses to measure the distance between the instrument onboard a satellite and the surface of the planet. Find out how scientists compile distance measurements to build a 3-D model of the planet’s terrain. In addition, learn about other applications of LIDAR to study Earth.

Crafts, Interactives & Activities

Sector 21 | Odd Squad

Grades K-2
In this online game, your child will follow directional and landmark clues to navigate a map and locate the odd creatures of Sector 21.

Make a Neighborhood Map

Grades 1-3
Introduce your child to mapping and spatial skills, while helping them gain a better understanding of their community.

Map a Model Solar System

Grades 6-8
Customize a scale model of the solar system on a map with this interactive. Set the center of the solar system at any location in the United States, pick a scale based on the size of the Sun or Earth, and then see the relative locations of planetary orbits on the map. This resource can be used to develop and use a model of the solar system and to relate the scale of the solar system to local environments.

Mapping the Brain

Grades 6-12
In this interactive activity from the NOVA scienceNOW website, learn about several brain mapping techniques: MRI, fMRI, PET, MEG, DTI, and probabilistic. Imaging technology allows scientists and doctors to gather information about the human brain without cutting it open. Each technique has its advantages and disadvantages. The interactive activity shows sample brain maps created from each technique; the user can scroll through cross sections of the entire brain from different perspectives (coronal, sagittal, and axial) and highlight specific regions of the brain.

Interactive Human Migration Map

Grades 6-12
Using archeological, genetic, and climate data, scientists have pieced together an outline of the human odyssey—the journey that took our species from Africa to all corners of the globe. Experience this 200,000-year migration using an interactive human migration map.

Learn Along Bingo

With Learn Along Bingo, children can view, explore, and play as they learn alongside their PBS KIDS friends on the PBS KIDS 24/7 channel. We hope your family will use it to inspire learning each and every day.

This time, we’re learning all about mapping and working on our spatial skills! Maps are models of places and show physical and human-made features. Studying maps, we learn about where objects and places are located.

Grades PreK-K

Play & Learn: In this packet, there are printable activities and everyday learning ideas for you and your child to choose from. As you complete each square, mark it off to celebrate the learning!

Grades 1-2

Play & Learn: In this packet, there are printable activities and everyday learning ideas for you and your child to choose from. As you complete each square, mark it off to celebrate the learning!

For even more games and educational resources for young learners, go to the Which Way? Map Activities for Kids Collection on PBS Kids for Parents.