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Introduce the Continents
As an introduction to hands-on activities about continents, children need to be introduced to them. Use a small, unlabeled globe to teach the names of the continents. Use a song to help them remember the names.
When the children are comfortable with the globe, demonstrate how a globe becomes a map. Roll a ball of Play-doh to represent the globe. Cut the ball in half, and then squish it down so that the children can see how a globe is “flattened" to become a map. Let the children explore this as an activity.
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Continent Puzzle Maps
Use continent maps as puzzles. Take out the continents and put them back in. Use a control map to help with placement. If you do not use a puzzle map, such as the Montessori maps, you can make your own. Print out a map, color it in, and cut it apart into pieces for them to put back together as a hands-on continents activity.
Let children make their own maps. With puzzles that have individual pieces, children can trace around each piece and punch it out with a stylus, or cut them out with scissors. Children can glue the pieces on a blue background. Or, glue the pieces on two blue circles. Staple the two circles together, and stuff them with the scraps from the continents to make a paper globe.
Make a tracing paper map of the seven continents by tracing the control map. Color it in with colored pencils. Paint a map by tracing the pieces on newsprint, and then using either tempera or watercolor paints.
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Multisensory Continent Maps
Print out a small continent map. Color the continents and cut out around them. Laminate the pieces for durability. Children can roll out a large ball of blue Play-doh to make the map background. Press in the plastic pieces where they belong.
Cut continents out of colored felt. Children can place them in their proper places on a blue background.
Get children moving when you make extra-large cards of the earth's seven continents. Place these on the floor, and have children "travel" around the world as they move from one continent to another, based on your verbal directions, or written directions on cards.
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Abstract Works for the Seven Continents
Free teachers websites, such as ABC Teach and Enchanted Learning have more abstract works that would supplement these hands-on activities. Children can also learn to recognize the shapes of the continents by coloring in little booklets, word strips and printable maps.
Make three-part matching cards for a hands-on way to practice the names of the continents. The control set of cards has a picture of the continent, with its name below it. The second set of cards has the continent picture and name separated. Younger children who are learning how to read can match the separated cards to the control cards. Those who can read the continent names should match the separated cards first and then check themselves with the control cards.
These hands-on activities on the seven continents will get children engaged in the process of learning geographical skills. The more of a variety you provide, the more ways they can learn.
All photographs by Andrea Coventry