My husband is a frequent traveller, and my children are all so used to it. In fact, through him, they got to know different continents, countries and cities. As we are based in Singapore, countries such as Brazil and Peru which he visited sound exotic to us. Since they are curious about his travelling, we took the opportunity to reinforce their geographical knowledge using puzzles, books and toys.
Engaging the children with toys and puzzles was easy. As for books, we ran in circles for a while. I finally found the reason for their disinterest – the typical nonfiction books embedded with photos and facts were too dull for them, regardless how easy the readings were. All children are different; mine happen to love cute illustrations more than photos.
Books/ toys that engaged my children
1. Ready to Read – Living in South Africa*, Living in Mexico*
(suitable for age 5 to 8)
We previously borrowed non-fiction books on countries, many fruitless attempts to get them interested. During my most recent visit to the library, in the very same section, I found two cute-looking books on South Africa and Mexico and thought I should give it another try. They loved it! The books are narrated by children growing up in their home country. Supported by adorable illustrations, the books cover the particular country’s history, geography, culture and daily lives in a captivating and straightforward manner. There are also books on other countries such as India, China, Italy and Brazil. I am going to order the books online soon.
(suitable for age 4 to 8)
We have tons of Richard Scarry at home, simply because my son loves vehicles. The books are also usually filled with funny stories that my children found amusing. In this book, the author introduces major cities of the world, mainly by illustrating their landmarks, culture, food and coupled with funny stories.
(suitable for age 5 to 8)
This atlas sub-divides the world into 17 sections, starting with a world map, then followed by Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Russia, etc. The pages are illustrated with people in their traditional costumes, or notable achievements, landmarks or animals living there.
Of course, the best way to expose our children to other parts of the world would be travelling there. We love to travel. But this requires time and money. With two more babies coming due soon, I better keep my life simple and stick to reading books for the time being.
[Following paragraphs are updated on 15 October 2017]
(Suitable age 6 to 9)
I previously didn’t touch on the world map with flag puzzle. I realised how fantastic this toy is over time. It is a Montessori teaching aid, a K2 graduation gift from my son’s preschool. One side of the wooden board shows flags of several countries and their corresponding names in English and Mandarin. On the other side of the board is the world map with names of the same set of countries. The child is supposed to match the flag to the country. This multi-dimensional approach play helps the child recognise not only the name and flag of the country, but also its geographical location. My son was engrossed every time he played with this toy. It is impressive that he took only a couple of sessions to learn the name, flag and location of several countries.
Not sure if it is a gender or an age issue, my son is more interested in learning about countries, flags and geography than my daughter.
After knowing the flags and locations of various countries, it is time to know them a little better.
This book focuses on the major cities of the world and its significant landmarks. This book helps children to associate cities to countries, for instance, Shanghai is in China and Shanghai is not a country.
(Suitable for age 4 to 8)
The world is not just made up of buildings. How about the natural surroundings unique to each country?
Another favourite of ours, a fabulous puzzle that challenges your child’s ability to remember and locate countries.
Other than books and toys, games and youtube/tv programme also progressively reinforce their geographical concepts. Documentaries such as “Do you think you can survive”, “World’s deadliest weather”, etc. We also challenge each other to name the most numbers of countries or cities.
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