Friday, May 11, 2012

Finding Friends on the Map [Cardinal Directions]

When we’re in the car, my son thinks going straight means we’re going north. Um … not quite. To help him understand cardinal directions, I decided he should use a compass and practice locating things on a map.

We don’t have a compass, so he made one! We followed the same directions that are posted here

All you need is a cork, shallow dish/bowl, needle, water, and a magnet. This was surprisingly easy and fun, too!

My son kept moving the cork to watch the needle spin right back and point north again. Never having worked with a compass before, he was curious to see that it always pointed north.

He thought that it would point in whatever direction you were heading. I explained how once you knew which way was north, you could figure out the rest of the directions.

After our compass was made, I gave him a little activity I’d worked up to practice directions. Before he started, though, I pointed out two things on the makeshift map I’d made: the compass rose and the map scale.

Download a PDF of this map and directions to find friends' locations here.

Next, he read directions and followed them to find friends on the map (an example is below), either beginning at the start or using the clue in the first direction to determine the starting point.

After all eight friends were located, he picked the place he’d want to go and wrote the directions to it.

Of course, my son picked the ice cream shop (like father, like son)!


  1. What a fun idea! I'm going to use this activity next year with my 3rd graders when we talk about directions...I think a lot of young kids thing that north is straight ahead :)


  2. Wow, that's so much fun! This is a great way to learn cardinal directions!

  3. Congratulations!
    I found out your blog when googling for "board games" to do with my 4 year old twin girls. They are autistic and though they are only 4, they want to play monopoly and stuff like that, which I think is difficult so I was looking for something more suitable and found out your sylabus turtle. They already read some words and in Speech Therapy they practice sylabus divison a lot.
    Wow, you're a genious, really!

    Your blog is in my favourites list. I will surely do some of your activities with my kids. Thank ypu for sharing.

    M. (from Portugal)

  4. Thank you so much for sharing! I am going to use this activity with my third graders this week in school. I know it will help them really understand cardinal directions and reading a map.

  5. Thanks for sharing this! I am going to use this with my third graders.

  6. Fantastic activity! Thank you for sharing .I will use it with my class.