Early Childhood: Where Learning Begins Geography--January 1999
How Do People, Things, and Ideas Move From One Place To Another?
The study of geography includes learning how people, products, and information move from one place to another. People all over the world travel everyday to go to work, go to school, and see relatives. Products like sugar and coffee are shipped from country to country. Information is communicated via telephones, televisions, faxes, and computers. Understanding movement helps your children see that people all over the world need each other for many things.
How Do People and Things Move?
Toddlers are expert travelers. In their attempt to learn what they can do and what the world is all about, toddlers climb over, under, and into nearly everything. They crawl, run, and walk around everything else. Let them play on wheel toys, wagons, and push and pull toys.
Ask them how many different ways they can move. They can go fast or slow. They can crawl, hop, jump, or slither like a snake.
Make a tunnel for children to crawl through. Cut both ends out of a couple of cardboard boxes, turn the boxes over and line them up. Toddlers will enjoy crawling into, through, and out of a tunnel.
Give toddlers something to ride. A variety of vehicles with a seat and no pedals--some in the shape of animals--are available for toddlers who push themselves around with their feet. Pull your children in a wagon.
Children with physical disabilities also need to experience movement. All children can have opportunities to travel by car, bus, or the back of a bicycle. If possible, take other forms of transportation such as airplanes, trains, subways, boats, ferries, barges, and horses and carriages. Take a map with you.
Toy trains with tracks and other wheeled toys are good ways to play traveling.
When you give your child a bath, blow or push toy boats to move them to different places. Use sponges or washcloths as make--believe islands.
Go around your house and look at where things come from. Examine the labels of the clothes you wear and the food you eat. Talk about where they come from. Why do some bananas come from Central America? Why does milk come from the local dairy? Perhaps your climate is too cold for bananas. The milk will spoil if it is not refrigerated for too long, so it can't travel far. How did the food get to your house?
Take a trip to the local supermarket to watch the food being delivered. How many different trucks do you see? Is there a separate truck for the bread and the fruit and vegetables?
When you are outside, ask your children to watch animals traveling. Find animals that fly, swim, crawl under or over the ground, run, jump, and hop. Organize your findings. Count the number of animals you saw that moved in each way.
Children who are just learning to use their bodies in space can imitate other forms of travel. They can hop like a rabbit, jump like a squirrel, slither like a snake. They can climb a chair and pretend it is a train or a plane.
Have your children ask older relatives what their world was like when they were young. They can ask questions about transportation, heating and refrigeration, the foods they ate, the clothes they wore, and the schools they attended. Look at old pictures. How have things changed since Grandma was a child? Grandparents and great aunts and uncles are usually delighted to share their memories with the younger generation, and they can pass on a wealth of information.
Talk about all the ways your children have traveled since they were babies. Go through photo albums and magazines and point out the pictures where you traveled or make a book called ''traveling.'' Your children can sort out the pictures of things they traveled on--cars, boats, minivans, buses, trains, planes.
Make milk carton boats to float in the bath tub or nearby pond.
How Do Ideas Travel?
Many ideas come from beyond our immediate surroundings. How do they get to us? Information moves from one person to another through telephones, mail, television, radio, faxes, and computers. Even posters, bumper stickers, and graffiti communicate ideas.
Two-year-olds learn that ideas and information travel. Teach your children to talk on the telephone with Mommy or Daddy at work or Grandma who lives in another house. They need to learn to say ''hello'' and ''goodbye,'' and to learn that the person at the other end of the line cannot see them, so they must use words to communicate.
Give toddlers a lot of paper, crayons, and markers so they can send messages to others. Their early scribbles are without form, but as they get older the letters and pictures may become clearer.
Toddlers see the mail being delivered. They can scribble on paper and give you their pictures to mail to Grandpa.
By watching television and listening to the radio, your children will receive ideas from the outside world. Where do the television shows they watch come from? What about radio shows?
Encourage children to communicate with friends and relatives. They can dictate letters to them, or send them pictures. They can talk with them on the telephone.
Go around your house and count all the different ''communications systems.'' There are the more obvious things like a telephone, a radio, and a television set. You might even have a computer or an intercom. Count the mailbox, as well as the newspaper, magazines, and books from which you get information. Don't forget pens and pencils.