how to teach kids where in the world they live

For a long time now, I’ve realized that Maddy, Owen, and Cora have no idea where they live.

Sure, they get that they live in Maryland and their Nanny and Pap and most aunts and uncles live in Pennsylvania, but they don’t really know where they live in relation to the rest of the world.  Cora sees the American flag and calls it the American Idol flag.

I know she’s four and that this knowledge and perspective is something that comes with time–and maturity–but I thought that it was about time we addressed the issue head-on.

In order to really understand even why our country has different types of coins (and governments) than other countries–like we discussed when we wrapped and counted coins earlier this week–they have to first learn that they live in the United States of America–a place quite different from the United Kingdom where William and Kate got married this spring, or Japan where Cars 2 took place, or Italy where their Grandma and Grandpa visited this year.

Younger kids sometimes get confused when we tell them they live on a continent, in a country, in a state, in a city. 

How can they live in so many places at once?

Believe me, I know there are tons of ways to do this, but I thought I’d give it a try with a Me on the Map activity I saw on Jenn from Finally in First’s awesome blog a few months ago. Among other things, I liked how this activity brought everything together, from planet to home, in one bright and happy package.

  • How to Teach Kids Where in the World They Live: This Me on the Map activity spotlights where kids live from big picture to small–their planet to their home (or school).  It allows them to hold in their hands all of the places they can call ‘home’ which is why I really love it.

I created circles for each part which can be downloaded here: Me on the Map Circles.

**New for our friends in Canada: Me on the Map: Canada version.  Feel free to download, share with our friends up north, and watch our Canadian little ones learn about their place in this big world!


 Owen helped cut out the circles at swim this week when he couldn’t go in the water.

The circles include:

  • our planet;
  • our continent;
  • our country;
  • our state;
  • our city;
  • our street;
  • our home (or school)

I also added some links to resources I used to print out an earth for the planet circle, a map of the continents, the USA map, the state of Maryland map, our state flower and flag, and our city.

As cool as it would be to have kids do the research to find this information and to really work hard to draw pictures of each part, I know it’s the summer.  And my focus was simply to give Maddy, Owen, and Cora a more clear picture about where they live in relation to the rest of the world.

Cora colors North America–the continent where we live.

and Owen writes ‘Earth’ for our planet.

To get this party started, I said, Okay my friends. This week we organized coins and found a lot of coins that belonged to other countries. I have no idea how they got in our coin jar, but they did. They obviously got really mixed up–somehow they made it from their countries all the way over to our country, the United States of America.

Today we’re going to take a look at where we are–where we live compared to other places in the world–and all of the places we can call our home.  Because you know we live in Maryland. You know that Nanny and Pap live in Pennsylvania. And you probably know we live [on our street, in our city].  But it gets confusing to live in so many places at once.

This is going to make where we live a little bit more clear, but I’m really going to need your help because there are a few steps to this. I know you can handle it. Ready?

I had organized all of the circles by size, and I placed the ‘extras’ above them.

I said, First we’ll start with our planet. We don’t live on Mars, and we don’t live on Jupiter.  We live on. ..

Earth!! Owen and Maddy yelled.

Yep. We live on good ole planet Earth.  So glue your earth on the circle that says ‘our planet’ and write ‘Earth’ above it.


Our Me on the Map circles, all spread out and drying.

We did the same for each circle, and as we went, I wrote the name on a piece of paper so they could copy it.

Really, Maddy was not feeling this activity. She was totally not into it. So I let her do what she was up for without pushing her.  She wanted to do her sketching, and that’s totally fine with me.  She scribbled the words and glued quickly and didn’t care a bit.


Owen was into it; he worked hard to write each word, and he placed his circles carefully on the table to dry.

I found I had a really hard time keeping up with Owen and being slow enough for Cora, but when I finally just let Owen zip ahead while I stayed along with Cora, and I wasn’t worrying about Maddy, it was fine.  Maddy actually came back to it the next morning, when she was more in the mood. I love it.

I took photos before we added our street and home–so that our location’s not plastered in cyberspace–but the kids drew cute pictures of our house and their perception of our street.



Cora holds her ‘Me on a Map’ proudly. . . and now that the picture’s taken, we can add our street and home.

We linked them all together with a circle clip, and we were ready to go.  Now finally Maddy, Owen, and Cora will be able to tell anyone who asks where in the world we live. I totally love it.

I wanted the kids to be excited about doing this without dreading the work, and I think this did the job.  It gave them enough to do to be invested but not too much so that they thought it was work. . .

Again, many thanks to Jenn from Finally in First for creating this activity: and if you’re interested in downloading the templates I created, they’re here: Me on the Map.   Happy mapping!


Please join Candace of Naturally Educational, MaryLea of Pink and Green Mama, and me for the Smart Summer Challenge, a six-week campaign where we all pledging to sneak in some sort of fun learning into our children’s summer days.

You can follow our calendar if you’d like, but you don’t have to.  You can get really crazy, but you don’t have to do that either.

It can be simple learning–even 5 or 10 minutes a day. Anything and everything counts, and all we ask is that you link up here on Fridays and share what you’ve done (meaning: share one way you participated). Each Friday for the next six weeks, we’ll choose one participant to receive an awesome (and I mean totally worth your time awesome) prize.

Our goal is to show all parents that if we can do it, anyone can do it. And if we want our kids meet with success in school and to enjoy learning about the world around them, it’s our job to create a lifestyle of learning for our families.  Join us!




    • amy says

      Jamie–such a good question. I’d say that kids will get it by 2nd or 3rd grade. . . with repetition. Lots of it. And those kids who grasp geography more naturally may understand it earlier.

  1. says

    Hi Amy, I find your post useful, beautiful and playful in the same time! Thank you for sharing. My little girl (5) has to deal a lot with movement between countries, since I am Dutch and we stay in Italy. So I can adapt your activity to her level and I’ll let you know what comes out of it…

    • amy says

      Angelique! THANK YOU! I look forward to hearing how you make this work for your sweet one. Please do share when you find time!

  2. says

    I have to do this with my son. With 4th of July just passing we’ve been talking a lot about America and America’s birthday. I showed him a map on google starting with the earth and shrinking it down to our city but I’m not totally sure he got it. This will be a great way to reinforce what I showed him. Thanks!

  3. says

    Oh, I am totally stealing this idea! I love it! Actually, we are leaving tomorrow for a trip to Chicago and I just printed out several maps from our travel itinerary for my 4 year old to look at as we travel. I highlighted spots for her to look for and packed stickers for her to mark when we pass each part of the trip. It’s something to do while we pass the time from Maryland to Chicago…beats listening to another round of Dora. :)

    • amy says

      Thank you! Steal away–and make it your own! Travel safely, and fyi, I LOVE that idea–stickers to mark each spot? Perfect!

  4. Sharon says

    I just ordered Me On the Map. Seeing all of your activity it reminded me that was on my
    ‘To buy’ list. We will start as soon as it comes!

    So is this activity suggested in the book or did you create it? I want to do it but I will wait if it is a part of the book.

    • amy says

      This is a separate activity, Sharon, and I’m in the process of figuring out how to avoid people using/ paying for Scribd, so if you want me to email it to you, let me know–I was under the impression that Scribd was free–I’m so upset.

  5. Sharon says

    P.S. I thought about doing something like this for bodies of water too. They get confused as to the size of a pond, lake, ocean, etc. I suppose you could even throw in a puddle too! ; )

  6. says

    I really like this! So many of my students have no clue about the world they live in. I like that they can easily collage/illustrate the circles. Great Idea!

    • amy says

      hoooray! Glad you think it will work for your students, Rebecca! I really love it, too–send photos when/ if they do it!!

  7. Brandy says

    LOVE! I saw this on Jenn’s blog a few months ago and filed it away in my brain for later. Well, with your easy peasy printables it looks like it’s later now! Thank you Amy!

  8. Kristin says

    I love this! My 4.5 gets this confused all the time. He thinks everyone lives “in America.” I think he’s associated this with our neighborhood (which IS in America). But then a friend moved a few miles away and he commented that he no longer lives in America! Not an easy concept for a preschooler : )

    • Brandy says

      Yes! My 4 year old asked me the other day if we were back in Alabama yet? We were on our way back from the science museum which is a few miles from our home. I must say it’s cute, though!

  9. Kristin @ Preschool Universe says

    This is a really good way to show how categories of things fit together. What a great vocabulary builder for almost any subject….for older kids genus/species/etc. for animals would be a good application.

  10. Alexandra says

    This is such a great activity but I am having trouble printing out the circles. My printer only prints part of the circle. When I try to download the page it takes me to an upload option. Any advice?

  11. Angie says

    I’m having trouble printing this out, too. I love this activity. We just got the book ‘Me on the Map’ and my five year old LOVES it! He’ll be so excited to do this activity. Would you be able to send it to me directly? :)

  12. says

    Thank you so much for sharing this idea. I just did this activity this weekend and it was a lot of fun. Just started Kindergarten this week and this fit in perfectly with our introduction to the world.

  13. Rebecca says

    Hi Amy,
    I love this idea as well and was excited to follow your comment from Finally in First’s blog here to see your templates. I would love to use them with my son, but I’m having trouble printing from Scribd. Would you mind sending them to me at rebeccastt [at] hotmail [dot] com? Thank you so much!

  14. Rebecca says

    I got it through my email. Thank you SO much, Amy! I appreciate that you shared it with us for free, and that you took the time to email it to me. What a great project!

    • amy says

      Rebecca–super! Glad you got it and please share picts when you do it–you are awesome for taking the time to write, my friend. :)

  15. Cathy says

    I love your templates, but I can’t get them to download. After trying for two days, I am officially giving up! Could you please email it to me? My first grade team who I will be sharing it with will be as grateful as I will be. Thanks sooooooo much!!!!!!

    • amy says

      Cathy! So sorry–this one has been really giving people trouble. The only thing I can think of is that you may not have an updated version of Adobe on your computer? Others have had success when they save the doc to their hard drive and print from there. . . sorry!

      Certainly will email them to you now.
      Thanks for sharing–

    • amy says

      Ann–thanks so much! Please let me know how it goes for your daughter, and huge thanks for reading!! Happy 2012 to you!

  16. Tortknee says

    Did you know there is a book called “Me On A Map” that would really provide a nice literary connection to your activity – same concept. Maybe you’ve already read it :)

    • amy says

      NO! Thank you so much for sharing–cannot wait to check it out. Many thanks for writing, and HUGE thanks for reading!!

  17. sherri says

    Thanks so much for the printables! I was planning to do this activity this week with my son, and this makes it so much easier!

  18. Anna says

    This is such a fantastic idea! The children in my class get so confused with the difference between London, England, UK and Europe, I am definitely using this! Thank you!

  19. Anna says

    This is such a fantastic idea! The children in my class get so confused with the difference between London, England, UK and Europe, I am definitely using this! Thank you!

  20. Kristin says

    I love this! I would like to include this activity in my Earth Day unit. Would you please email me the printables? Thank you.


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