This weekend I taught my daughters how to use a map. I like to make sure my kids know important life skills and I thought I was doing a good job, until the GPS stopped working in a blizzard in the middle of the mountains in an area we don’t know, and I pulled out a map. This was a girls’ trip so my husband and sons were at home and none of my daughters knew how to use a map. It had always been the boys’ job to navigate. That’s terrible.
Reading a map is one of those “I can sleep when the wind blows” skills. (If you don’t know that story see my post on it here.) If you know how to use a map, you don’t have to worry if the GPS stops working. Because I had a map and I knew how to use it, I didn’t panic. But my 18 year old daughter panicked when I gave the map to her and asked her to help me navigate. I guess I assumed they learned how to use a map in school, or that my daughters were paying attention when the boys were using maps on our hikes. I was wrong. My kids said they said they learned about maps but never used them.
Instead of being frustrated and just doing it myself (which is what I have done more times than I should) I pulled over and gave my daughter a quick lesson in reading and using a map.
How to use a map for beginners:
- Take a pen or a highlighter and trace out your route starting with where you are and ending with where you want to go.
- Take note of all of the turns, exits, etc you will have to make and what towns are near them.
- Watch for road signs and follow along on your map as you go. If you see a sign that says you are entering a town or landmark, mark that on your map to make sure that it is on your route and check for upcoming turns.
After quickly telling my daughter how to use maps and having her trace out the route on the map, we set off. The result was wonderful! What would normally have been a trip with everyone on their phones or tablets, turned into a trip where we were all noticing the beauty around us. My daughters all started looking for signs and commenting on the beautiful frozen rivers and snow covered trees they saw. We had real conversations about the area around us.
Another benefit was the increase in self confidence in my daughter as she successfully navigated us using the map. She sat up straighter and her voice was more confident with each successful turn we made. She was proud of herself for being able to do something that she thought would be really hard.
The younger girls also paid attention and my youngest daughters successfully navigated using a map on the way home. They were so proud of themselves!