Photograph by Winn Brewer, National Geographic
Spatial Thinking and Maps Skills in Young Children
Spatial thinking allows students to comprehend and analyze phenomena related to the places and spaces around them—and at scales from what they can touch and see in a room or their neighborhood to a world map or globe. Spatial thinking is one of the most important skills that students can develop as they learn geography, Earth, and environmental sciences. It also deepens and gives a more complete understanding of history and is linked to success in math and science. Young students also enhance their language skills as they collaborate and communicate about spatial relationships. Students who develop robust spatial thinking skills will be at an advantage in our increasingly global and technological society.
This collection can help you teach an assortment of map skills through activities that address the spatial thinking abilities of young children and developmental appropriateness. The collection is not intended to be a complete map skill program, and the activities can be adapted for higher or lower grades. Click here for a downloadable summary of all activities and the learning objectives and spatial thinking concepts targeted in each activity.
Mapping Concepts and Skills
National Geographic's The World for Kids wall map is an enticing and engaging world map perfect for classroom, home or library. Recommended by geography educators for ages 7-12, this map features an optimized map design for readability and easy, intuitive learning.
Maps of Familiar Places
Introduce young students to the concept of maps as representations of places with these community maps.
Introduce young students to the concept of maps as representations of places with this park map.
Introduce young students to the concept of maps as representations of places with this neighborhood map.
Introduce young students to the concept of maps as representations of places with this community map.
Pictures of Practice
See activities in action in these picture of practice photo galleries.