Screen Time Alternatives: Mapping the park
This was a bit of a favourite from my own childhood and you might be surprised by how well it can still capture the imagination of children today. It’s not quite so effective with younger kids, but especially if they have an older sibling who’s engaging with it well it can give younger ones a bit of focus to sit and draw something too.
This needs to be done for a park (or any other area for that matter) that the child is already familiar with. Give them a plain piece of paper and a pencil and have them draw the most accurate, detailed, map of that place that they can. Suggest that they start off by drawing a grid and compass so that it feels more like the genuine article. Perhaps suggest that they think of names to give to the different paths and areas of the park. This will just be a first draft though, so they might not want to spend a long time decorating it just yet.
Once they’ve got their basic map ready, it’s time to go on a fact finding mission: go for a walk with them to the place they’ve drawn and identify the different features. Celebrate the things they’ve already included and places where their map is especially accurate and point out new things they could include or places where it could be even more accurate. They could even take notes and draw reminder sketches on the spot.
Going out with the specific purpose of being especially observant can open up familiar places in a new way, both for the kids and potentially for you too! It’s great to notice things together and to realise the sorts of things your kids pay particular attention to and prioritise in their maps.
Once you get home it’s time to make the final version. Using their original map and their newfound observations they make a display version of their map which can be decorated completely. You might like to make ‘ye olde map paper’ with them first by painting sheets of paper with coffee (perhaps do this before you got out so they have time to dry while you’re gone).
Display the map on your fridge or display board with pride and make a point of pointing it out or even taking it with you next time you visit the place in question.