Exploring maps

Exploring maps through discussion, story-telling, games and creative activity. 

Teacher video: Draw information from a simple map

Teacher guidance

Using the activities


The activities are designed to support Reception teachers in targeting Development matters statements and laying the foundations for pupils’ further geography learning. In this unit, the Development matters statement ‘Draw information from a simple map’ is broken down into its core skill and knowledge components, linked to the Kapow Primary Geography curriculum in KS1 and KS2.


Refer to the skills and knowledge grid below to choose which activities to use with your class.


Activities can be delivered in any order and at any time of the year to suit your curriculum, specific topic, or cohort.



Activities can be organised to suit your setting. Options include:


  • Using them as a whole-class lesson.
  • Introducing activities to the whole class before setting them up as part of the enhanced provision.
  • Allowing children to access the activities independently as part of the enhanced provision.

Choose your activity

Activity 1: Pirate map bingo

To find and name familiar features on maps.

Activity 2: Our school from above

To consider shapes and positions of features when making a map.

Activity 3: Let’s build a map!

To build and describe a model of a familiar place.

Activity 4: Creating journey sticks

To describe a journey using found objects as prompts.

Activity 5: Investigating maps

To explore a range of maps.

Activity 6: Map making

To apply their knowledge of maps to make their own.

Key skills

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Key knowledge

To know:

  • A map is

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Key vocabulary



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Further guidance

Ideas for topic links


Pirates: Introduce the idea of maps by looking at pirate treasure maps and reading a pirate story. Go on a pirate treasure hunt.


Katie Morag: Study maps and features of Katie Morag’s town and compare it to the local area. Links to understanding different cultures and ways of life, family trees and story exploration.


All About Me/Where I live: Use the opportunity to explore the features of your local area and identify familiar landmarks and place names.


Around the World: Compare different countries and cultures around the world, weaving the exploration of maps into the understanding of each different location.


Maths: Positional language, directions, coding, using Bee-Bots.



Recommended texts


‘Martha Maps It Out’ by Leigh Hodgkinson.

‘Pirates Love Underpants’ by Claire Freedman.

‘The Treasure of Pirate Frank’ by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham.

‘Katie Morag Delivers the Mail’ by Mairi Hedderwick.

‘The Jolly Postman’ by Janet and Allan Ahlberg.

‘Maps’ by Aleksandra Mizielinska.

‘Me on the Map’ by Joan Sweeney.

‘Let’s Go for a Walk’ by Ranger Hamza.



Continuous provision ideas


Place a globe in your continuous provision and encourage investigation and questions. Can the children recognise the difference between the land and the oceans? Can they find the UK on the globe? This can be a useful reference point when children go on holiday or you are studying other countries/cultures.


Include books containing simple maps in the reading corner. These can be either fictional or non-fictional (eg. Katie Morag stories, The Jolly Postman or pirate stories containing maps).


Encourage spatial and positional language as part of play: over, under, through, around, across, above, below, behind, etc.


Print out some simple maps, laminate and cut them into sections. Add these to your jigsaw area for the children to build their own map.


Ensure that your block and small world area contain the resources needed for the children to build their own villages/towns.



Wider experiences


Visitor: Pirate Workshop (ask them to include a focus on maps and treasure hunting).


Event: Go for a walk around the local area, identifying road names, familiar features and places of importance.

Unit resources

Knowledge and skills progression

Gives an overview of the skills

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