Crafty Kids: How to Make Maps of Your Neighborhood–and Your Imagination

Children love maps. The graphic imagery of even the simplest charts can give them lots to feast their eyes upon, and to dream about. But maps also help them make sense of the world around them—something grownups, who’ve committed thousands of routes to memory, often take for granted.

The warming weather provides the perfect opportunity to accompany your budding cartographer out into the neighborhood, to sketch up the way to a friend’s house, or the playground, or just once around the block. Some kids prefer to draw places they see in their imagination. Either way, inspired by the book Mapsby Aleksandra and Daniel Mizieliński, and featuring images from the accompanying Maps Activity Book, here we offer a primer in the ancient art of map making.

What you’ll need:

  • Writing implements—pencils and colored pencils, markers, pastels
  • Paper—either a printout of one of the templates below, or plain paper of your choosing

1.     Decide what you want to make a map of. Will it be a map of a place you know already—like your room or your block? Will it be a map of someplace big, like the whole Earth or a made-up planet? Or will it be a map of someplace small, like your school or your neighborhood? Take a tour of the place—if you can—to get the lay of the land.

2.     Map out your map. With light pencil or chalk marks, rough out where everything on your map will go: buildings, streets, parks, trees, oceans, cars—whatever you fancy! Then work on making your map more permanent, with firmer marks and color and details like windows on buildings, or waves on the sea, or leaves on your trees.

3.     Label the things you’ve drawn on your map: Nico’s house, the Indian Ocean, Christmas Street. Then, make a legend. A legend tells things like how many inches equal a mile, what the capital of your country is, and what the native language is. If you like, you can also draw pictures of local birds and flowers, and the people (or aliens!) who live here.

4.     Finally, make sure you give your map a compass rose, so the people who use it know which direction they’re heading in!

Hand drawn map by Ada Grazia Cowan.

Maps Activity Book. Copyright © 2013 by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielińki. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Maps. Text and illustrations copyright © 2012 by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielińki. Translation copyright © 2013 by the Templar Company Ltd. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.