We marvel at the way our children focus their attention on the tiny: the ladybug on the leaf, the tiny crack in the sidewalk, the speck of offending green stuff in the plate of pasta.
And so how, exactly, can we explain the vastness of the world to them, when they are so tuned to the minute? Sure, their minds are elastic (so are ours, though we occasionally need reminding to keep stretching them), but really -- the whole wide world? Is it possible to make such a huge thing vivid to a wee one?
We're not always sure, but we are always sure to try. And summer seems like a fine time for a world tour, especially one you don't need to pack for.
Where shall we go today? Close your eyes, spin the globe, and point. What?! You don't have a globe? It's worth getting one, and this is one of our favorites. We're also partial to vintage ones you might find at local garage sales, with references to Yugoslavia and spellings like Peking, but that can be a bit arcane to explain to preschoolers. So, best to start with a globe that's as accurate as modern politics allow. One fun way to play with the roundness of the globe is to keep lengths of kitchen twine near your globe - your child can trace routes with the string.
Back to spinning—where did you end up? In the middle of the ocean? Then it's a good time for the lesson about over 70% of the earth's surface being covered with water. And perhaps it's also a good time for a little marine biology fun.
Towel off from your undersea adventures and take another spin, landing this time on land of some sort. Don't you wish you could be there right now, looking around and seeing what there is to be seen? Start up Google Earth and you can be, virtually, at least. (No luggage ever gets lost on a virtual trip.)
Look up any place you've landed, and you can zoom around and take a look as if you were there. If you like it and you want to come visit again, you can mark it online and on your globe (electronic pushpin for the online version, Post-It flag for the globe, maybe). You can record a tour of your wanderings around a place, and you can look at older images of the same place and compare the changes.
When you're ready to head home, be certain to put in your address and see your own house! Mom might be ready to wander the streets of Paris until she finds a café to stop in for lunch. Kiddo might be ready for another splash into the ocean, this time with Google Earth giving you the tour. Regardless, there is more exploring to do! The world is a big and wondrous place. Offer it up to your little one!
Originally published in 2009.
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