Practice map reading skills at the playground!

by Trisha

I did this activity with my almost 3 year old, but it will work for older kids just as well.

Learning map skills through this fun learning activity can translate to bigger things in the future.


The first time I ever made a map for my son was this past Easter. I hid Easter egg around the house. I drew a quick sketch and placed egg stickers on the map to indicate where the Easter eggs could be found. It didn’t take him very long to get the concept {maybe the chocolate inside the eggs helped a little}. He ran around for days with that map hiding eggs and pretending to use the map to find them.

This time I thought it would be fun to practice map reading skills outside. You could choose any outside location for this – your backyard, a local park, a neighborhood field, a playground, or even a familiar trail.

While Aiden played at the playground, I drew a quick sketch of our surroundings.

I grabbed a few toys and a pinecone to place around the area. I marked each location on the map with an X because according to my son {and many others} “X marks the spot.”


I asked Aiden if he wanted to play a game. Usually, he gets excited and listens for further instructions. On this particular day, he just wanted to play outside. Thinking it would get his attention, I told him I had a map. {He has been carrying around a trail map lately asking me to read it.}

Still nothing.

I said, “The map has an X on it. The X marks the spot where we can find some treasure.”

Finally, he was interested!

He looked curiously at the map. I showed him how I had drawn a map of the playground. I pointed to the rocks in the drawing and the rocks surrounding the playground. I pointed to the “red slide” on the map. “Where is the red slide on the playground?” He pointed to it, “Right there!” We took a few more minutes studying the map.

I asked him if he could find an X. He pointed to the X by the table. Then, I told him there was a treasure on the playground, and X marks the spot. Can you find the X? Here is the table. The X should be behind the table. Do you see anything there? He walked around the table and found one of his toys.

We continued looking for Xs on the map and finding their location on the playground. Aiden was very excited to see all of the treasures we found by using map reading skills.


  • Add words to your map. Label the surroundings to practice or strengthen reading skills.
  • Use letters or numbers to represent your locations. Find the treasures in numerical or alphabetical order.
  • Have older kids draw their own maps.

X marks the spot for map reading fun! For more kids activities for learning map reading*, take a look at these ideas:*