How Kids Can Create Sketch Maps for the Outdoors

How Kids Can Create A Sketch Map

Part art, part geography, a sketch map is a fun way to document a day outdoors with a creative touch. In her geography class, my 10-year-old daughter learned to create a sketch map which is the simplest sort of map kids can create. Based on actual observations, she hand drew a map of her school’s neighborhood with key features and a legend. School buildings, fruit store, bus stop – it had everything and was a cool snapshot of a walk she did around the block with her class. Could anyone do it based an an outdoors activity, I asked. Of course, she answered, it’s easy. And she showed me, turning a recent spring walk into a colorful and detailed sketch map.

If you want to turn family outdoor activities into keepsakes, sketch maps are a great way to remember a fun day out on paper. Here are illustrated steps on how to do one with your kids.

Decide Which Outdoor Activity You Want To Sketch Map

How Kids Can Create A Sketch Map - Select An Outdoor Activity

Is it a walk in the park with the family?

A treasure hunt for a birthday party?

A snow day?

A day at the beach to build sand castles?

A Sunday bike ride?

As long as there’s a starting point, en ending point and an activity in between, it’s all good.

How Kids Can Create A Sketch Map - Kew Gardens

For her sketch map, my daughter picked a spring walk at Kew Gardens in London that included an Easter egg hunt, lunch, a treetop walk, wild garlic spotting and playing boomerang. You can see the boomerang in flight in this photo. It took us a while to get it right!

Lay Out The Art Materials

How Kids Can Create A Sketch Map - Art Materials

Paper

  • Kids will need large size art paper to map.
  • A4/US lettersize is great but A3 and larger is preferable.
  • If they’re going to use watercolor, watercolor paper is best (it soaks in all the water).
  • Otherwise, plain old art paper works with lots of different media.

Coloring/drawing materials

  • Pencils are great to sketch the main blocks of the map.
  • Watercolor can fill large areas easily.
  • Colored pencils, charcoal pencils and markers are all good.
  • For borders and hand writing, we like to use fine point markers.
  • For fun details, kids can use stickers or collages of magazine illustrations.

Select How Much Space You Need for the Sketch Map

Your kids don’t need to sketch map everything. In my daughter’s case, she left some activities out of the sketch map and decided to center her artwork on the largest Victorian greenhouse where she found the first clues for the Easter egg hunt. She could as well have decided to focus on the lawns where she played boomerang with her sister.

Draw Your Story on the Sketch Map

How Kids Can Create A Sketch Map - Draw A Story

I love how sketch maps can tell a story by adding place names, details and their relationship, plus notes of the activities of the day. To draw the sketch maps, follow these steps:

  • Sketch the roads, trails, buildings and geographical features in pencil.
  • Paint in the drawing.
  • Outline borders in marker or pen.
  • Label the known areas.
  • Give a title to the story.
  • Add a legend (you can use a separate piece of paper that you glue in a corner) giving explanations with symbols. Those can be figures, shapes, colors or shapes.

compass-511475_960_720

  • Add cardinal points with an arrow pointing north or a fun compass rose (be creative!).

Additional Map Resources

Have fun learning about maps and creating your own!

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Laure Latham

Laure is an author, environmental advocate, blogger, open water swimmer and now mother. She's passionate about inspiring families to enjoy the outdoors with their children, learning to unplug and living a healthy lifestyle, giving kids life skills and exploring the world around us sharing Family Friendly, Fun Ideas for the whole family on Frog Mom.

2 Responses to “How Kids Can Create Sketch Maps for the Outdoors”

  1. April 10, 2016 at 10:10 pm, Natalie PlanetSmartyPants said:

    This looks terrific – your daughter did such a great job. Mine is in 4th grade, but they did not do sketch maps yet. Instead they did a salt dough map of California earlier this year.

    Reply

    • April 13, 2016 at 10:59 am, Laure Latham said:

      Hi Natalie, a salt dough map of California sounds like great fun! Did they get to paint it as well? My daughter is in 6th grade so that explains the sketch map although I dare say, I’m sure any child who likes to draw can do a sketch map. It doesn’t have to be accurate to be fun. It’s all about representing a story in space differently. Thanks!

      Reply

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