A r c h i v e d I n f o r m a t i o n
Early Childhood: Where Learning Begins Geography--January 1999
There Is So Much In the World. How Can We Look At It All?
Because there are so many things to study and so much to look at, geographers divide the world into physical, cultural, and economic regions. A region is an area that includes a number of places, all of which have something in common. Physical regions may have a particular type of climate, natural feature, or plant life. A cultural region has some common culture and history that distinguish it from other nearby regions. In some areas, people speak the same language, observe the same holidays, practice similar religions, or share a political identity. An economic region may be known by what is made and exported from an area.
What Do I Do Here?
Toddlers can learn about the regions in their own home and neighborhood. We use certain areas for different purposes. There are areas with water, like bathrooms and kitchens, or areas with beds like bedrooms. Many children over 4 years of age may be able to explore the part of the Earth that is closest to them and begin naming the traits that make it special.
- Help your children understand physical regions by examining areas in your home. Is there an upstairs and a downstairs? Is there an eating area and a sleeping area? Eating meals, resting, napping, and sleeping in the same place everyday gives toddlers an initial sense that there are places with distinct characteristics in which you do certain activities.
- When you travel through your community or take trips, name the different regions--the shopping area, the playground, the church, synagogue, or mosque and your own street.
- Take a trip to a region that is very different from your own. A nearby park will do, or you can travel to a waterfront, mountain, or desert. If you can't travel, look at pictures in a book. Talk about how these regions differ from your own neighborhood and from each other.
- As you travel in different regions, look for familiar features. Do you see a school that other children attend? Is there a church or an office building?
What Are My Traditions?
Children learn about culture through language, art, music, and games. Toddlers and preschoolers love to listen to the sounds and patterns of their language and the languages of others.
Fill your toddler's life with the songs, poetry, and sounds of the language of your culture. Play baby games such as ''The Eensy Teensy Spider,'' ''This Little Piggy,'' and ''Patty Cake, Patty Cake,'' as you dress, bathe, and care for your toddler. Sing nursery rhymes and songs your parents sang to you when you were a child. By doing so, you are transmitting the language and culture of your family and perhaps your region and your nation.
- When you follow your own holiday customs or the customs of your own cultural heritage, you are teaching your toddlers and giving them something to compare others to as they get older.
- Take your children to visit the different political, residential, recreational, ethnic, and commercial regions of your hometown.
- Go to plays, movies, and puppet shows about people from different countries. These are often presented at libraries and museums. Some are also on television.
- Holidays provide an opportunity to learn about the customs of people around the world. You can use the library to discover how other people celebrate special days.
- If you have friends who are from different countries or have traveled or lived abroad, invite them over to talk with your children. If they have pictures, so much the better. What languages do they speak? How are their customs or dress similar to or different from yours?
- Learn a few words of another language. If there is someone in your neighborhood who speaks another language, teach your children how to say ''hello'' or ''thank you'' in that language.
- Learn about other cultures. Make different ethnic foods, take your children to folk festivals, or watch movies or shows on television such as Ali Baba or Heidi. Read stories about children in other lands.
What Do We Produce?
Introduce children to the ways that location can influence the way people produce and export goods.
- Take toddlers to work with you if possible, so they can see you producing either goods or services.
- Every community has some different economic sections. As you travel through these regions, name them for your children. ''We are going to the mall to go shopping.'' ''We are driving past the harbor where ships come from all over the world.'' Don't forget to point out the smells from the bread factory, the oil refinery, or the fisherman's dock.
- If you live near a river, lake, or ocean you might observe barges loaded with automobiles, machinery, or even garbage. Watch for trucks and ships carrying different materials and goods. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the different ways goods are shipped.
- People travel and so do goods, clothing, and other materials. Look around your house for items made in different countries. Don't forget to check the labels on the foods you eat to see where they came from. Talk about how these things ended up in your home.
[How Do People, Things, and Ideas Move From One Place To Another?]