Exploring the 5 Themes of Geography With Kids

We all agree that learning geography is important, but sometimes I wonder if it gets overlooked as a subject.  Is there more to geography than just labeling countries and capitals?  Are we taking the time to explore the 5 themes of geography?

My own geographical knowledge is embarrassingly lacking.  Now that I’m a parent to a school-age child I find myself a geography student once again, and I’m learning a lot more this second time around.  

Here are some ways my first grader and I are exploring the five themes of geography in Costa Rica and other places as well.

Exploring the Five Themes of geography with kids

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Exploring the 5 Themes of Geography With Kids


Where exactly is the country, city, state, or place located on a map?  You can be specific and talk about the absolute location (latitude and longitude), or with younger kids you can locate the place on the map and talk about its relative location (where it is in relation to other places around it).  Check out these resources for exploring LOCATION.

exploring the five themes of geography with kids

  • Hopefully soon we’ll be making this fun project we found on Pinterest that helps us visualize our place in the world.


What are the physical and human features of the place you are exploring?  This can include things like landforms, natural resources, rivers, oceans, weather, plants and animals.  Here are some fun and easy ways we are exploring PLACE this year.

exploring the five themes of geography with kids

  • Weather: Each morning our routine includes graphing the weather where we live.  We also check the weather in places around the world.  We chose places with personal meaning like Poznan (where our penpals live), Costa Rica (a country we are studying this year), Paris (because Ratatouille is one of our favorite movies), Madrid (where mom studied in college) and Qatar (where one of mom’s friends lives).  These are all places my first grader found interesting.  Each time he learns of a new place he likes to add it to our list.
  • We plan to try a fun art project like this one  from Kid World Citizen to explore landforms.
  • We learned about the animals from Costa Rica and then did a scavenger hunt at our local zoo to see if we could find any of them living there.  You could also just observe the animals that reside in your own neighborhood and compare them with ones that live near someone you know far away–a grandparent, a penpal or cousin!

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Human Environment Interactions

The geographical characteristics of a place affect many different aspects of the human life that inhabits it.  It is fascinating to observe how climate, landforms, and more can affect housing, clothing, and cuisine.  We have some favorite books at home that are great for discussing the human-environment interactions:

  • Children Just Like Me: A new celebration of children around the world–This book celebrates 25+ everyday kids from around the world, and the communities they live in.  Each spread features aspects of the children’s daily life, typical housing, family interactions, hobbies, and more.  It’s a great way to see how where the child is from affects their daily life.
  • If You Lived Here: Houses of the World–Such a neat book that highlights different types of housing from around the world and across the ages.  Here the effect of the land on housing materials and structures clearly comes through in the illustrations and descriptions. These two books are among our favorites for social studies this year.


How do people get from place to place around the world?  Are there highways, gravel roads, ports?  Do people walk on foot, ride bicycles, take the bus?  You might also discuss what kinds of goods and services depend on certain transportation methods.  

The five themes of geography

  • See if you can count all the different modes of transportation where you live.  Try using a new type of transportation your family doesn’t usually take.  Discuss why one type of transportation is preferred over another in certain areas.  Do people take certain modes of transport for pleasure and others for business? 
  • Watch this fun time lapse video Around the World in 343 Days and see if you can spot all the different ways people get from place to place around the world.


Help your child place the country you are learning about within its region.  Talk about how that country is similar to others around it and why.  Discuss how certain landforms like mountain ranges create a region, or how certain regions share the same kinds of crops or climate.  The book Children Just Like Me: A new celebration of children around the world is a great way to see how regions share similarities.  Each section of the book begins by introducing all the kids from a certain region together.  It’s fun to compare the similarities and differences.

For more ideas on how to explore geography with your kiddos check out the MKB World Geography Board on Pinterest.

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Born and raised in Kansas City, Kali took Spanish in college and fell in love with it--especially after spending time studying in Costa Rica & Spain and volunteering in Peru. Once graduated, she began sharing her love of Spanish through her blog (www.fortheloveofspanish.com) and by teaching Spanish to local homeschool students.

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