Sunday, January 19, 2014

Intro to Geography - Landforms

I did some preliminary research (obviously) about introducing geography to a preschooler. I was thrilled to realize that Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now offers a free Montessori Geography Album when you subscribe to her blog. That was a great place to start, and I found some other terrific blogs (like Counting Coconuts, Imagine Our Life, and The Hands-On Homeschooler) with great ideas for geography.

To be honest, I wasn't entirely sure how interested M would be in learning about landforms. I was intrigued by the idea of teaching landforms, and I really liked the way landforms were described and could be paired off as opposites to compare and contrast (like a lake is water surrounded by land, while an island is land surrounded by water). There were so many hands-on ideas for building landform models, so I thought that would be a good place to start.

We started with a very basic tray with three glass jars - one filled with soil, one filled with water, and one empty (filled with air). I also included a map of the United States, a toy compass, and a set of animal cards (some that live on the land, some that live in water, and some that can fly).

We talked about what geography is - the study of the Earth (land, water and air), and the people, plants and animals that live on the Earth now and in the past. We talked about how a map is a tool that is used by people who are studying the world. (She insisted on getting out her magnifying glass to examine the map.)

I gave her the pile of animal cards, and showed her how to sort them based on where they might live.

Next, I showed her the set of landform 3 part cards (I downloaded a free set here). I laid out all of the pictures on her mat and gave her the stack of labeled cards. She matched the cards while we talked about what the landforms looked like and how they were similar and different from each other.

We wrapped up the day by making landform snacks inspired by this Living Montessori Now post. We used graham crackers and yogurt with blue food coloring instead of icing. M made a couple of the easier landforms (like the lake), but got frustrated trying to spread the yogurt. I made the rest, and had her try to guess what landform I was making. She then matched all of the graham crackers with her landform cards before we ate our snack. She loved this activity, and was so excited to show my husband the pictures and tell him about the different types of landforms when he got home from work. (Note: My printer ran out of ink when I was printing these cards and I wasn't able to get more before we did this activity, so we were missing the isthmus card.)

M had so much fun learning about landforms, I decided to follow up the next day with another landform activity. We reviewed her 3 part cards, and then she helped me make some homemade play-doh. I split the dough in half, and we dyed half of it brown (equal number of drops of blue, red and yellow food coloring), and divided the rest into smaller balls to dye rainbow colors.

We took the brown dough back to the playroom and I gave her a small baking pan and a container of blue water beads. We talked about how the brown dough would represent land and the blue beads would represent water.

We flipped through the stack of landform cards, and M picked the first landform to model. We started with an island, then she wanted to make a lake. She especially liked pouring the water beads into the tray to fill the "water."

Next we made a strait, followed by a system of lakes.

At this point she started to lose interest in the landforms and just wanted to play with the play-doh and water beads. She liked poking holes in the dough and filling the holes with beads. I gave her the rest of the colors of play-doh, along with some containers and transfer tools (scoops, spoons, tweezers) and let her play as long as she wanted.

We had so much fun with these activities! Make sure to check back to see what we're up to next as we continue on our Around the World Adventure!

Linking Up With:
Preschool and Kindergarten Community
Hands-on Play Party
Montessori Monday
Tot School Gathering Place


  1. We are reviewing our landforms this week and I can't find our cards! Thank you for linking to the free ones. Oh and I LOVE your idea with the water beads. I think we will have to bring this back around in a few weeks so we can add them in.

    1. Perfect timing! I'm glad it was able to help you. And don't you just love water beads?! So fun!

  2. These are FABULOUS!! Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! We had so much fun with these :)