The ultimate guide to Montessori Geography

Are you wondering how to teach geography to your children? In Montessori education, we have many geography lessons and we introduce children to the beauty of the world from early on. 

Here are some of the geography lessons I like the most.

Big picture to more details

The Montessori approach is to present the big picture first and then to introduce children to the details. 

Having said that with toddlers and very young children, they first need to have a good grasp on their immediate world before being introduced to the Universe and Continents. 

When your toddler/preschooler shows an understanding for distance, location, knows where they live, are aware that they can travel to other countries, then it might be the right time to introduce them to the wider world around them. 

Is your child curious about animals and where they live? Do they know that if they have been on holidays in Spain, it is far far away from home? Are they curious when someone says to them that they are from another country? If yes, then introduce them to Geography with some of the following lessons.

Introduction to the Sandpaper Globe:

Every house should have a globe. You may want to skip the sandpaper and coloured globe and invest directly in a regular one. But you would miss some great opportunity to introduce your child to what is the Earth in a more accessible way. 

Let's see how it works.

First you introduce your child to the sandpaper globe.

Tell your child what it is: "this is the Earth, where we live. It is how we see it from the sky"

Touch the sand continents and say "this is land" then the smooth water part "this is water". Invite them to touch the land and water parts. Introduce vocabulary such as smooth and rough. Some children are only interested in the sensorial aspect to start with. Some will understand that it is a representation of where we live and will ask if you can show wher is their house or country, depending on their prior knowledge/understanding. 

Introduction to the Coloured globe:

Take it a step further and introduce the 7 continents. You would do so when your child has an interest for countries and they are familiar with the concept of the globe and know that we live on Earth. 

Explain that we have chosen a specific colour to represent each continent.

Introduce your child to their own continent. If you know anyone living on another continent, you may talk about them as a way to make it more relatable.

To start with, children are interested in naming, recognizing and sorting the continent. It's a new vocabulary and they are so much into language that it's not different than naming insects, cars, or breed of dogs. They might not be fully understanding that a continent is a huge piece of land or that you have to cross the sea on a boat to go to another one. 

Many countries in one continent share some common characteristics. Some continents are separated from each other. Depending on your child's age, you can go in more details. With an elementary child, we might take the contient globe again and talk about the continental drift. 

The fact that the continents are coloured coded in Montessori will be used as a control of error for further activities. 

Globe to Map

The next activity would be to introduce children to a 2D map. I like how you can draw the continents on an orange, peel it and flatten it to show how we represent the Earth into a map. 

From there, you can introduce the coloured map puzzle or simply a printed map.

With a printed map, you can colour it. You can cut around each continent and glue the continents on a blue paper, checking their right spot with a control map. You can cut pictures of animals, food or landmarks to glue on your map.

Make sure you join the newsletter to receive your free map template (then you will receive my regular newsletter):

Introduction to the 7 continents:

Now that your child is familiar with a 2D map, let's introduce the continents. 

If you have some 3-part cards, you can do a 3-period lesson.

Start by introducing your child to their own continent. Here is how I would do it for Europe:

1st stage - Name it

Take the European card and say to your child "this is Europe". 

2nd stage - Show me

Place Europe next to two other continents, for example, next to Asia and Africa.

And say to your child: "Can you show me Europe?"

3rd stage - Recall

Many children might not want to say the name out loud. It doesn't mean they don't know it. 

Place up to 3 cards in front of your child and ask your child, pointing at each card "what is it?"

Do you want more ideas about how to use the 3-part cards? Check my free mini-course!

The  7 continents song:

Check this subscriber to our box singing it! It's on my Instagram account. 

Oceania, Australia or Australasia?

Why we chose Oceania instead of Australia:

Geography is an evolving area. It's linked to politic and to culture. 

Oceania is the term that includes the most islands in the region around Australia (the country). After discussing with Montessori teachers from around the world, including from Australia and New Zealand, as well as geography teachers based in the UK, I have chosen the term "Oceania" for our Montessori cards included in this month's box. 

A few links to read more about this here. And here.

Sort by continents:

This is one of my children's favourite activities. From very early on, they were classifying their schleich animals on the map. You can also sort landmarks (check the Toob landmarks here and there) or food pictures. 

So I created a bingo for our Montessori box!

Me on the map:

I loved making this activity with the children in the Montessori school. And my two children loved it at home as well. 

So we have included it in our Montessori box. You can colour it in or add pictures of your house, street, and so on...

Our Montessori box in May was about the World!

I still have some one-off boxes "around the world" available! More info about our box here.

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About the Author Carine Robin

Carine Robin has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, specialising in child psychology. She worked for various social services in her home country of Belgium, before moving to Ireland in 2006. It was there that she started working in a nursery and discovered Montessori education. After having her first child, her passion for the philosophy grew and she qualified as a Montessori teacher and managed a preschool. Carine has been running a Montessori based parents and toddler group and coaching families for 9 years. She now also runs an online group for over 14000 parents, sharing her knowledge and passion with people from around the world. In 2018, Carine realised families needed more support and launched her popular online parenting courses and monthly subscription boxes, full of personally designed Montessori materials.