Thursday, January 17, 2013

Racin' Across the United States [a Geography game]

Want a clever way to help your child learn the 50 states and their whereabouts? This game is perfect!

Before my son and I started playing though, we did some reading. Lynne Cheney's book accompanied this activity perfectly. The book was inspired by the author imagining what a family trip across the United States would be like and even features a fold-out map charting the course for anyone adventuresome enough to travel all 50 states in one big road trip. The pages that follow have details about each of the states' history, fun facts, famous former inhabitants, state flowers/bird, etc.

Robin Preiss Glasser's illustrations in Our 50 States: A Family Adventure Across America are playful and the pages are littered with tons of interesting nuggets of information. Since we didn't have time to read the whole book, my son choose a few of his favorite states to read up on. You could spend hours with this book!

Once we put the book away, I got out two maps I'd printed off the internet (I got ours from Make and Takes here). NOTE: To make the game more challenging, find a map without the states' names.

With a map in front of each of us, I grabbed two bowls that contained slips of paper printed with each state's name. Each of us would draw a slip of paper from our bowl and color the state it identified. (Download a 2-page PDF of the state names here. Remember to print a copy for EACH player.)

The winner of our "Racin' Across the United States" game was the first player to get states colored in a path from one coast to the other or from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean (or vice versa). It doesn't matter which states you "visited" along the way or in what order, so long as the states touched one another. Unfortunately, drawing Hawaii and Alaska from the bowl isn't much help.

NOTE: Make sure all players are drawing the states out of their bowls at the same time, so that each is "visiting" the same number of states during the game.

My son narrowly beat me (all I needed was Arkansas!). He enthusiastically shared the states he'd traveled on his virtually coast-to-coast vacation, while I drew a line from one to the next. Geography CAN be so fun!


  1. This is such a wonderful idea! Thank you for sharing! :)

  2. I played this with my kids yesterday and they loved it. We pulled out the globe as well as listening to "50 Nifty United States" on youtube. Thanks for making a simple, but fun game! By chance did you see the map game in this month's Family Fun magazine? I think we'll do it as an extension activity. :)

    1. I'm SO glad your kids enjoyed this little game. And thank you for reminding me; I haven't read the latest issue of Family Fun!

  3. I love this idea and can't wait to try it out with my daughters!! Thank you for making learning fun : )


  4. Great idea! I'm featuring this on Share it Saturday!

  5. I LOVE IT! Just shared on our geography board. Would love it you shared this on our After School Link Up too! Off to go reserve that book at the library! Thanks for sharing!

  6. So easy, what a great idea. We will use another one of your ideas during our Geography for Kids study! Pinning and sharing!

  7. Love it - then take it a step further and have them research each of the states they traveled through and give a report/presentation on their trip - or a travel brochure or simplify it and have them find the capital, state animal, flower, tree etc., motto, annual weather, major landforms etc. This is a great start - now add to the geo fun! :-)