Geography, in the very broadest terms, is the study of the Earth’s landscapes, people, places, and environments. Kids love to learn about the world, and these days there are some exciting ways to help take your kids on a fun journey around the globe without ever leaving your living room. So if you are looking to spark an interest in this fantastic world of ours, look no further, because we have found 19 super cool resources that your kids should know about.
Geography was first studied by the ancient Greeks (of course) and is often called “The Mother of all Sciences” because of its relation and influences on other scientific fields such as biology, mathematics, anthropology, geology, astronomy, and chemistry. It is generally divided into two main branches, human geography, and physical geography. Check out our list of the best websites, books, videos, and apps that cover both types of geography.
Best Geography Websites for Kids
An easy way to get kids interested in the world is through a fun website (since most kids will take any chance to be online that they can get). Here are a few of our favorites:
- National Geographic Kids you can’t go wrong with National Geographic for kids. The website is a fantastic place for kids to spend time learning and exploring.
- Global Trek is a fun site from Scholastic that lets kids plugin travel destinations, and it brings up information for the countries that the child enters. It’s pretty basic, but fun to use.
- Google Earth is an incredible tool for kids. It lets them go anywhere on Earth using satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings, from into space to the depths of the oceans.
- Geography4Kids is a very informative website that teaches physical geography and earth science basics to children. It has info on ecosystems, earth structures, biospheres, food chains, earth energy, and lots more.
- Kids Geo is an online geography textbook that has lots of info plus online videos that are included with some of the topics.
- Geography for Kids is another great educational site that has fun facts, free games, exciting experiments, science fair projects, cool quizzes, and videos.
You can’t beat a good geography book, and there are lots of great ones to choose from.
- National Geographic has a bit of a lock on the kid’s market as far as geography goes, but their books are generally really great for kids. There is a lot to choose from; two that I like are the National Geographic Kids Beginner’s World Atlas and National Geographic Kids World Atlas. Both are written in the typical Nat Geo Kids style, which is lots of colorful pictures and interesting facts broken down into short paragraphs that are easy for kids to read.
- Maps and Geography (Ken Jennings’ Junior Genius Guides) is a really neat book for kids who already know a bit about geography and are interested in trivia about the world. It is written by Ken Jennings, who you probably know as that guy who won a lot of money on Jeopardy. If you know anything much about him, you will know that he’s super interesting and amusing (check out his twitter). Not surprisingly, the book is written in a way that reflects his personality, so it is fun to read, and you learn a lot of crazy world trivia. This book is part of a series called the Junior Genius Guides, which also has books about US presidents and Greek mythology. It has some questionable reviews on Amazon, but I liked it.
- A Child’s Introduction to the World: Geography, Cultures, and People is another book in a fantastic series. This book is for kids ages 9 to 12. It covers: hemispheres, latitude, and longitude, continental drift, map notation, landforms, population density, Each section has a different continent, and includes information about climates and biomes, mountain ranges and bodies of water, people and cultures, governments and industries, wildlife, and much more.
- The Everything Kids’ Geography Book: From the Grand Canyon to the Great Barrier Reef – explore the world! The Everything Series is always a great choice if you are looking to introduce a child to a new subject or help them expand on the knowledge that they already have. This book includes information on the locations of states, countries, and continents around the world. They will also learn about the features that make each region interesting.
One of the best TV shows that I have come across that helps kids learn about the world is, Are We There Yet? It is a short show (each episode is about seven minutes long) that has a brother and sister who travel around the world learning about different cultures and countries.
Another show that everyone loves, but it is short of showing its age, is Where in the World is Carmen Santiago. Just in case you aren’t familiar with Carmen Santiago, it is an educational franchise that has computer and video games, a television series, and books that teach kids about geography. If you are feeling nostalgic, you can watch many of the episodes on YouTube.
Free Online Geography Games
- Sheppard Software has video games that are often used in schools. They have a fun game about world geography that also includes a tutorial.
- Your Child Learns has interactive maps for all over the world that are easy to play around with while teaching your kids at the same time.
- Geo-Me! has animated musical stories of children from around the world and helps kids learn about the geography and demography that makes life in a specific place unique from (and similar to) their own.
- Geo Challenge is a fun way for kids to learn the flags and maps of the world. It helps kids learn using puzzles, quizzes, and flashcards. One of the neat features of it is that it lets you spin the globe to find out information on 193 countries.
- Tiny Countries is an app with a slightly different approach to Geography. This app has kids using characters and their knowledge of geography to try to solve missions. It has 15 tasks over six continents, with 75 countries to be mastered. There is also an animated interface to learn about countries, their capitals, and famous monuments.
- Kids Planet Discovery is an app that helps kids discover the world with games and adventures all about cultures, animals, music, dresses, geography. This app contains 100 games & 80 videos about our Planet.
So as you can see, there is no shortage of fun resources that you can use to help your kids learn a little bit about geography and the world. If you have any great resources, please let us know in the comments below.
Guess which language many people consider the hardest to learn and yet has more native speakers than any other language? That’s right, it’s Mandarin! Mandarin is the umbrella term used for dialects spoken in the north and south-west of China.
It has been predicted that China will become the world’s most powerful economy by 2027, making workers who can speak China’s most popular language highly valuable (i.e., your kids). Don’t worry, though; there are A LOT of fun and educational resources to help your kids learn to speak Mandarin Chinese – even if you don’t happen to know your Ni hao from your Zai jian.
Language DVDs for Children
Teaching children a new language is a big undertaking so if you are teaching your kids at home and aren’t quite sure where to begin to start with the essential words in the same way that you would teach a baby your mother tongue: colors, the alphabet, family, animals, items around the house. In the beginning, it is all about the repetition of words. Videos and DVDs are a great re-enforcer of basic vocabulary at this stage.
Most of the DVD’s that we checked out combine English and Mandarin. The standouts for the DVDs based on user reviews are Journeys to the East: The River Dragon King. Both of these DVD’s have great reviews for the educational value of the content, and they both have engaging storylines that help keep kids entertained. There are a few negative comments about the production value compared to Nick Jr.’s Ni Hao Kai-lan, but overall they are the best choice if you are looking for a Mandarin-English DVD.
If you are looking for a total immersion DVD Smart Tiger is a great choice or Bin Bin’s Magical Bubble Adventures: Learning Mandarin Through Stories (Colors, Foods and Sleepy Time) also has excellent reviews.
If you are looking for something free, you can try Sesame Street’s Mandarin Learning Program.
Language Learning Programs/Websites
There are quite a few options for language learning programs for children to learn Chinese. If you don’t mind spending some money, Muzzy is one way to go ($200 plus). It’s a very popular program, but the negative reviews seem to outweigh the positive for this program. One of the big complaints with Muzzy is that some people find the animation to be a little primitive. If you are looking for something to expose a baby to a new language, you can try Baby Learns Chinese. This program generally has positive reviews.
As far as what might be the best bet for a language program, the choices we narrowed our search down to were Chinese for Smart Kids and Language Nut. If we were going to purchase a language program for our children, we would probably go with Language Nut. Language Nut was primarily designed as a teacher resource to be used in schools, but they do offer a home user, single computer license for $29.50. It has 24 units, with songs, stories, and games. The graphics are super cute, modern, and child friendly.
If you are looking for a DVD based learning system, you could try Dino Lingo’s Chinese for Kids or Little Pim Chinese. Both systems generally get good reviews and are suitable for younger kids who are just starting to learn a new language.
As far as the best free sites, we like Poisson Rouge School and Kid Chinese they both have lots of free and fun lessons.
Five Free Online Games
Games are a fantastic way to help children memorize vocabulary and keep things fun, so children will want to continue learning. No big surprise, but there are lots of online games to help with language practice. The following are our top five favorite games. See our more extensive list of games in our resource guide.
- Zon is a multiplayer, online learning environment designed to teach language and culture through gameplay. Kids can practice their language skills and learn about the culture.
- Kid Chinese is an excellent free resource for helping you teach your kids. The ‘Fun World’ section of the site has very good games.
- Chinese iLab has games and quizzes that use audio, so you need to have headphones or speakers. With these games, you listen to the words and match up to the items in the game.
- Digital Dialects gives you a list of words to learn, and then it tests your knowledge of the words with a game.
- Chinese Staff Room is another excellent resource that has games that help kids learn greeting emotions, colors, clothes, verbs, etc.
Apps also help keep the learning process fun for children as well as reinforcing vocabulary with pictures and sounds. There are too many great apps for helping kids learn to pick just one, so we are highlighting the top five apps that we found:
- Animal Fun: Chinese for Kids generally has excellent reviews. The highlight of this app includes flashcards and games that have great animation and fun background scenes, including the sea, insects, the jungle, and the farm.
- Learn Chinese by MindSnacks has five games and a polished interface. One of the language apps for this company was named as “One of the best education apps of the year” on the App Store Rewind 2011.
- Learn Mandarin Vocabulary from Penyo Pal is another excellent app to help teach kids. This app has super cute graphics that uses a combination of story, games, and language learning to help children learn to identify new words.
- Check out Speak Mandarin with Private Eye also from Penyo Pal that can help kids start to learn this new language by playing a mystery game.
- LinguPinguin – English / 汉语 英语 has nine different visual worlds: e.g., animals, transportation, body, and toys. A total of ninety objects are made available to explore. When tapped, each item comes to life with sounds revealing the spoken word for the object.
Mandarin Kids Books
If you are looking for some websites to buy books, try Chinese Child Book or Read with me Mommy. Both sites have a good selection of books to choose from. Another interesting place to find language books is Language Lizard; this site offers dual language books for popular titles like Dear Zoo or The Wheels on the Bus, which just means that each page of the book includes Chinese and English text on the page.
For those people who are just looking for some good language titles for kids, a good one to start with is Mandy and Pandy. These books use easy words to teach kids up to grade 3. The books have topics that include greetings, counting, traveling, sports, colors, and animals. Each book has an audio CD which consists of both English and Chinese text. Another great title to look for is Taoshu Learn Chinese, if you are looking for a book that includes an audio CD.
An excellent workbook that you might want to have a look for is Chinese Made Easy for Kids, although you might need to have some knowledge of Mandarin to get the most out of this book.
If you are looking for books for very young kids, you can try the board book series Gordon & Li Li. There are three books in the series: Words for Everyday, Animals, and Count.
If you are looking for a reading system that is like the LeapFrog Tag Reading System or Vtech Bugsby Reading System, you should have a look at Touch Reading Pen with Chinese Books, and this could be very helpful for non-Chinese speaking parents.
And Finally …
Since the more exposure kids get to a language, the more likely, they will pick it up. Remember to check your local library for more free resources to help kids learn, also YouTube has a lot of great quick lessons that you can show to your kids that will help them learn in a fun way.
photo credit: GlobalCitizen01 via photopin cc
photo credit: BC Gov Photos via photopincc