I know I have a difficult time reading maps. I still agonize over which way is north or or south. I will usually get frustrated and ask for visual landmarks. My word maps consist of, "If you pass the yellow dog in the yard you have gone too far, go just beyond the blue house and our location is where the green truck in the driveway is."
I wondered how I could teach very young children about following directions while making it fun. Word maps came to mind. Here is how we do it in preschool.
How to do word maps with preschoolers:
Materials: mini toy compasses (optional, but can be bought in bulk at party stores as party favors), paper,strips of paper, tape, a large room, pen, scissors, your imagination.
Process: Draw a simple map of the room where you would what the children to go. Pick 5-7 areas of the room to begin with, once the kids understand what is going on they will definitely want you to extend this activity and do it again.
Cut paper into strips and write clues for exactly where you want the children to look. Keep the first clue and tape the rest in a hidden spot on the location they are to look. This will be in a sequential order so numbering your clues might help.
As an extension I introduce compasses and show the children how they work. We use them while finding the clues and I will write down the results in the map.
Word maps are great ways to enhance preschoolers cognitive skills, language development, spacial awareness, sequencing, memory and recall, even motor skills.
Sometimes we all wind up outside depending on the clues. At the end of the circle time activity we try to recall all the places we went!