Geography Lesson Ideas and Games for Kids

girl with map

Geography is an important subject for several reasons. Learning more about geography not only helps children and teens learn more about the world they live in, but helps develop tolerance and appreciation for other cultures.

Physical Geography

Physical Geography is the study of the Earth and its climates, water system, landforms and other elements.

Elementary School Lesson - Map Making

Help children learn more about maps by asking them to create one of their own. Children can draw a map of their room, house, neighborhood or can even make-up an imaginary land, and create a map for it. Use graph paper and have the children draw the map to scale, and be sure to discuss how important it is to include landmarks as they give viewers a point of reference. Make sure to have the children orient the map in the proper direction; the north on their map should correspond with actual north.

Middle School Lesson -Three Dimensional Map

Help middle school age students learn more about the physical world around them by creating a three-dimensional map. Start with a larger cardboard flat, like the kind you might find holding a case of soda. Using a ruler, draw a grid on the lid in pencil. Over the grid, in pencil, outline the shapes of mountains, rivers, etc. on your map. Using salt dough, make your map three dimensional, building up 'mountains and hills' with the dough. Add other elements by either painting them on the map or gluing objects on the map to represent the geography. For example, you can use rice or dry beans to represent a forest.

High School Lesson -- Comparison Map

Older students will benefit comparing two different areas, pointing out the similarities and differences between the regions. Create a poster that not only includes maps, but includes an in-depth look at a regions or cultures. Choose an area you want to study and research it. Create a poster that includes pictures and information about these areas. Include information on the most prominent crops in the regions, cultural customs, language study and native dress examples. Provide fabric pieces, stickers and other craft materials to the child to help them create the poster.

A variation of this project is taking a historical approach. Choose a geographic area and show how it has changed over a given amount of time. For instance, the Great Plains of the United States looks much different today than it did back when the colonists started their western trek. Africa today looks much different than it did 100 years ago, as does most areas. Have students draw picture of what an area looks like today and how it might have looked a hundred years ago. A hundred years ago, many parts of Africa featured flat lands, wild animals roaming free and desert regions. Today, however, you'll find many modern cities, as well as more traditional villages.

Beyond Maps - All Ages

To really get a feel for other geographical areas, go beyond map reading, and learn more about the individual cultures who make these areas home. Geography is more than just lines on a map; it's also about the people and cultures of the place. Put a human face on your geography, and your kids will be much more likely to remember the states, countries, and continents.

Learning Through Eating

Teach children of all ages about the various countries they are studying by introducing them to the foods from those geographical areas. You can learn a lot about an area by studying and experiencing native foods.

  • Restaurants: Find a restaurant in your area that serves truly authentic food from the country or culture you are studying. For instance, if you are studying Mexico, find a Mexican restaurant to take a field trip to. Try to order some new things that are typical of the region and before the visit, teach children enough Spanish words to order a meal. If you go when it's not busy, and call ahead, the chef or a waiter may be willing to speak to you about the food.
  • Cook at Home: Hands on cooking is a good way to learn about various cultures. Children often appreciate and are more willing to try new foods if they have a part in preparing it. For instance, if you are studying Germany, consider making an authentic German meal or a dessert such as a German almond cake.

Dress for Learning

Teach children about various cultures by creating native outfits for the various regions and areas you are studying.

  • Costumes: Use scraps of fabric, old t-shirts and pieces of felt to create native costumes for the countries you are studying.
  • Puppets: Choose a culture or to study and create a paper bag puppet to look like the native costumes from that area.
  • Paper Dolls: Create paper dolls using a pattern drawn on card stock. Create clothing using colored or scrapbook paper or scraps of fabric. If you are studying African culture, use stripped fabric, raffia, beads and ribbons to create authentic African looking costumes.

Pen Pals

if you want to learn about a faraway land without traveling there, consider corresponding with a pen pal from that area. Pen pals are a great way to learn more about what it's like to live daily in the culture you are studying.

Geography Games

Students learn more when they are having fun. Create some fun games that will help them learn more about geography.

The Alphabet Game

The alphabet game is a great way to help children learn more names of geographical locations. The game begins with the letter "A." All players sit in a circle, and each player has to come up with a place that starts with the next letter. For example, the first player might say, 'Albania,' and the second player might respond with, 'Bosnia.'

Add challenge to the game by requiring only certain types of words such as only countries, only cities or only geographical terms (ie archipelago, butte, etc.)

Geography Bingo

Print out the states and capitals bingo cards to work on your knowledge of U.S. Geography. Use pennies as markers, and call out the state. The student then should cover the corresponding capital on her bingo card. If you don't happen to be studying the states and capitals, you can make bingo cards by creating game boards with just the country name, and cards for the caller using city names, or capitals. The game is a good option whenever you have two associated facts that you want to review, such as states and capitals, countries and cities, landmarks and countries, etc.

If you need help downloading the printables, check out these helpful tips.

Word Scramble

One good method of getting students to learn the spellings of new countries, geography terms, cities, etc. is by challenging them with a word scramble. Create a word scramble by making a list of terms to study, and then mixing up the letters and challenging your student to see if he can unravel all the names. Alternatively, you can print out the one below, which features various countries.

Geography Word Find

One fun game is a word find. Take all the words that you are trying to teach. Create the word find by using the names of cities, states, countries or continents that you are trying to review with a puzzle maker like the one found on Discovery Education.

Trivia

Trivia is another fun way for children to learn about geography. Research interesting facts about the area in which you are learning about. Teach children about these fun facts and then ask the trivia questions and see how much they remember about the area.

Geography Ball

Use a simple game of ball to help teach students about major geographical areas. Find a large beach ball and use a black permanent marker to draw on the continents and major world characteristics such as oceans and mountain ranges. Assemble players into a circle and then the leader tosses the ball to a player. If that player catches the ball, he has to identify a continent, ocean or mountain range. Old students can write the name onto the ball with the marker where younger students can simple move onto the next step. That player tosses the ball to another player who repeats the steps. A player is out of the game when he incorrectly identifies a spot of the globe.

Geography Know How

Having a basic knowledge of geography will help your student in every other subject. Making geography fun will ensure that what she learns sticks.

Geography Lesson Ideas and Games for Kids