Tucked alongside old report cards and macaroni Mother’s Day cards in plastic pins at my mother’s house are dozens of hand drawn maps I loved making as a kid. Some of these maps were very loose renderings of our street as secret spy headquarters, 19th century whaling ship ports, a dude ranch, and a sugary winter wonderland that suspiciously resembled the board game Candyland. Other maps were completely imaginary and featured airborne neighborhoods with streets of quartz and paths to front doors that could be retracted to keep out unwanted visitors. Some were specifically of the Alaskan backyard I grew up set to a gigantic scale; the little hills in my yard became gargantuan mountain ranges and the bits of free lawn became vast tundra wildernesses, traversed only by the bravest explorers and the terrible wild beasts. My childhood, adolescence, and even my adult imaginary life has been very firmly rooted in maps of both imaginary and real places and I adore any book that gives me a map to accompany the story. For me, seeing the layout of Middle Earth, Westeros, sea routes of exploration, or an Icelandic saga on a map always makes the story I am reading infinitely more interesting and more alive to me. Every kid should try their hand at map-making! Nothing gets the imagination flowing like a fun, imaginary map completely of your own making.
Here are some fun tips to help your little guys become first-class cartographers!
– If they are having some problems coming up with imaginary places all their own, suggest using something familiar – a street, the layout of the house, a park – and transform that familiar place into something completely new! This was one of my favorite things to do as a kid!
– How does a town get water? How does the town get food? Simple questions about the basic necessities of life can inspire dazzling results! I am a mermaid at heart and many of my childhood maps featured underwater countries ruled by mermaids. Instead of fields with cows to feed people, I had vast sea grass pastures with grazing fish for food. Instead of hunting wild animals in forests, my mermaids hunted in kelp forests.
– Does your kid have a favorite book or story without a map to go with it? Have your kids make one! Your kid will probably find a whole world hidden that isn’t in the story! Fairytales are great places to begin because the action is usually limited to a very small part of the world!
We would absolutely love to hear if any of these ideas helped create new worlds for your kids’ imaginations to run free and wild in! Leave us a comment and if you are looking for some inspiration for some worlds that could definitely be added to, check out our apps of Rumpelstiltskin, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, or Puss in Boots!