As parents, we strive to provide our children with tools that will kick start their education and imagination. When it comes to raising an intuitive and informed world citizen, maps skills are fundamental. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite world maps, including everything from magnetic puzzles to levitating globes. These educational playthings will help your children to comprehend the phenomenons of space and time. Children absorb information rapidly. After all, it’s a small world!
How to Pick the Best World Map for Kids
As adults, we tend to take visual aids and maps for granted. After all, most of us have replaced our atlases and GPS systems with smartphone apps. That said, children must start from the ground up when learning about geography and navigation.
1. Recommended Age
Children between the ages of 3 and 6 can recognize some symbols, letters, and numbers. Maps for the pre-k age group should be bright and marked with simple graphics and clear boundaries. Maps and globes should also boast chunky pieces and buttons.
Young school children can benefit from maps with more realistic details. Children between the ages of 7 and 9 may be able to refer to a basic map legend for reference.
Older children and teens should be offered more detailed representations of the earth. Maps for older children should boast dynamic details, such as country names, capital cities, regional facts, and even statistics. Graphics are less important at this age. However, they still play a big part in a child’s interest and ability to focus.
Children tend to appreciate large-scale or three-dimensional representations of the world. Oftentimes, the size of the map or globe dictates its amount of detail. Small, lightweight models are best suited for tiny hands. Then again, watch out for small, difficult-to-read labels. Crowded maps can be a source of frustration for young learners.
Children tend to respond well to a mix of abstract and concrete symbols. Most maps boast written labels, color distinctions, and clear boundaries. Graphics and symbols also help children to distinguish between the different parts of a map. For example, stars are often used to highlight capital cities. More subtle symbols, such as the use of bold black writing for country names, may be less distinguishable to a young child. Even colored blocks can be confusing to early learners.
4. Level of Interaction
Children tend to gravitate toward interactive learning tools. Choose something tactile. Puzzles, smart devices, and coloring activities challenge children. They make new academic concepts more attainable and attractive.
Keep in mind that two-dimension maps provide children with a basic look at the earth. Meanwhile, three-dimensional globes give them a look at the bigger picture. Without physical elevation markings, little hands can’t fully grasp the concept of our planet. Every element is part of your child’s formative education.
Can a map or globe function in multiple ways? We came across plenty of navigation aids that double as decorative pieces, night lights, and coloring activities. Choose a fulfilling and dynamic world map for your child; you won’t regret it!
Maps and globes are only as good as their base materials. Choose a tool that is durable enough to withstand several years of use. You don’t want to pull the plug on your expedition after just a few sessions. If your instincts tell you that the cheap plastic sphere doesn’t have a chance in your house, then you’re probably onto something.
Little Experimenter Illuminated Globe
We would be lost without this charming light-up globe. First off, the three-dimensional model serves as an excellent hands-on visual aid. Children can spin, analyze, and even feel their way across the surface of the planet. All the essential details, including continents, countries, capitals, and geographic features, are clearly marked.
A battery-powered LED light gives the orb a soft glow. You can’t fault your little one for wanting to do a little globe-trotting before they hit the sack. The weight-balanced base prevents this stunning artifact from tipping over. While batteries may not be the most ideal power source, you get around 300 hours of use from every set of AA.
As a cordless educational tool, the Little Experimenter Globe is a safe and fascinating toy little ones. Still, its detailed markings and legend make it an amazing study tool for older children.
Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 8 inches
Installation Method: Insert batteries and play
Other Features: Included
Oregon Scientific Smart Globe
The Oregon Scientific Smart Globe offers an experience that is above and beyond that of a traditional low-tech map. This spinning sphere is loaded with over 2,000 fun facts. A hardwired pen enables children to select specific areas. There are also 19 interactive games programmed into this device.
This globe allows children to explore and compare a wide range of topics, including languages, national anthems, populations, and currencies. It provides insightful information about countries, capitals, geographic features, and more. Children can even use the local map feature to learn more about their home country.
The globe’s clear, crisp audio does not need clarifying. For the most part, children over the age of 5 should be able to navigate this toy on their own. The globe sits on a triangular base with three interactive touchpad panels.
Recommended Age: 5 and up
Dimensions: 16.2 x 13.2 x 13 inches
Installation Method: Just insert batteries and play
Other Features: Interactive pen, facts, quizzes
Waypoint Geographic GyroGlobe
Best Budget Buy
When we first saw the price of the Waypoint GyroGlobe, we were sure the tiny orb was going to be too good to be true. We couldn’t have been further from the mark. The 4-inch sphere boasts over 600 geographic pinpoints. The brilliant colors, sleek lines, and bold print are incredibly appealing to young children. Still, the design is sophisticated enough to blend into a communal room.
The tiny navigation tool is the right size for small hands. The orb makes 360-degree revolutions without skipping a beat. Despite being on a scale of 1:128-million, this micro map is super informative. Still, it probably wouldn’t hurt to keep a magnifying glass nearby.
For such a low price, the GyroGlobe is a justified accent piece. Given its striking details and smooth action, we can’t see it gather much dust.
Recommended Age: 5 years and up
Dimensions: 6 x 5 x 5 inches
Installation Method: No installation required
Other features: Stand
Material: Injection-molded plastic
World Dry Erase Map Decal
This peel-and-stick World Dry Erase Map works great in older children’s rooms, playrooms, and classrooms. The best part is that you can repeatedly remove and reposition it without damaging your walls.
Before we even get into this map’s educational value, it’s worth noting that colorful wall decals like this are super trendy. The detailed markings make it easy to pinpoint an exact location. The glossy dry erase-friendly surface can be marked and erased during study sessions. It even comes with a dry erase marker for doodling.
The map is very detailed, with countries, cities, and major waterways inked in black and blue. There is no doubt that this pleasing wall piece sets the stage for continual learning and exploration.
Dimensions: 24 x 36 inches
Details: Peel and Stick
Other Functions: Dry erase board
Best Learning's Talking World Map
Best Talking Map
Best Learning’s Talking World Map poster has earned multiple awards. This impressive wall decoration serves as a self-guided geography lesson for early learners. You’ll be blown away by how fast your preschooler acquires essential facts. The map is loaded with hundreds of highly relevant and up-to-date facts, including regional language data, population statistics, and noteworthy landmarks.
The colorful placard includes charts of flags from around the world. Just be sure to set some space aside for this 3-foot mat. The poster works best when it is placed on a hard, flat surface. The iPoster offers a series of fun quizzes, should you be training for Junior Jeopardy. However, it is worth noting that only 92 countries and capitals are featured on the map.
What more do you need to kick start your budding U.N. Ambassador’s career?
Recommended Age: 36 months to 12 years
Dimensions: 36.02 x 0.98 x 26.97 inches
Installation Method: Insert batteries and hang
Other Features: Audio, interactive buttons
Doodle World Map Pillowcase
Best Artsy Map
Learning should always be interactive. Little doodlers will love this coloring book-style world map pillowcase. It
comes with 10 vibrant fabric markers and a plush white cotton pillowcase with an illustrated world map outline.
This learning adventure is hands-on. Unlike paper-based coloring activities, this Doodle World Map Pillowcase can be erased of all markings. A warm wash will completely restore this canvas to its original state. After a few coloring sessions, your young topographer will have no trouble remembering their geography facts.
The map highlights animals from around the world. There are dozens of adorable creatures to color. Not to mention, the map boasts a number of fun facts about explorers, landmarks, and animals.
Recommended Age: 7 years and up
Dimensions: 6.89 x 0.79 x 8.86 inches
Installation Method: Color and play
Other Features: Coloring activity
Material: Cotton Fabric
Educational Insights Foam Puzzle Map
Best for Toddlers
Start your little one’s world tour early with this incredible 54-piece Foam Puzzle Map from Educational Insights. The chunky world map serves as a thrilling activity for young children. The super-soft pieces are comforting and safe. Plus, they can be rinsed down with a little soap and water.
Help your child locate countries and capitals as they hone their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. The charming illustrations and vibrant colors help captivate the attention of young explorers.
The puzzle is quite large. As such, it’s a great floor activity. We recommend pulling this out on a rainy afternoon. While your child may need a little direction, you’re sure to score some peace as they piece the world back together.
Recommended Age: 3 years and up
Dimensions: 3.5 x 13 x 13 inches
Installation Method: Piece together
Other Features: None
Magnetic U.S. Puzzle Map
Best Magnetic Map
The Learning Resource Magnetic U.S. Map Puzzle is a mom-approved educational resource. Unlike typical cardboard and wood puzzles, this plaything can be adhered directly to a refrigerator. That means more educational opportunities and fewer missing pieces.
The states are clearly labeled. They boast interesting details, like state animals, capital cities, and landmarks. Your little one will be an expert on the good old U.S. Of A. in no time. If you’re a homeschool educator, K-12 teacher, or tutor, this is a great tool to slap on your blackboard.
Recommended Age: 4 to 12 years
Dimensions: 10.00 x 9.10 x 2.10 inches
Installation Method: Stick and lift magnets
Other Features: Puzzle pieces
Material: Magnetic sheet
The Earthball is an inflatable ball featuring a composite of NASA’s satellite imagery of the earth. While the Earthball may omit human-made labels, like latitude/longitude lines and country borders, it is a wholly accurate depiction of our planet.
On the surface, it seems as though the Earthball should be reserved for lessons about space and physics. However, there is more to the topography that meets the eyes. When the lights go out, you see a charming constellation of made up of glow-in-the-dark cities.
While some users complained that the ball is plastered with fluffy white clouds, we found these atmospheric elements were an excellent segue for discussions about the weather. A quick game of ball also helps kids burn off pent-up energy.
The inflatable globe even comes with a lengthy educational guidebook, should you want to expand your lessons.
Recommended Age: 12 months and up
Dimensions: 10.6 x 7.8 x 0.8 inches (16 inches in diameter)
Installation Method: Peel and Stick
Other Features: Light-up details
Yanghx Levitating Globe
The Yanghx Levitating Globe is a 4-inch model that is suspended in an electrically charged magnetic field. Despite its small size, the country borders, longitude and latitude lines, and country and region names are all clearly defined.
Bright blue LED lights set the stage for thrilling nighttime learning sessions. It even comes with a small plastic spinning tool, should you want to do some hands-free exploring. The advanced magnetic levitation technology is buried in a decorative ring. The ring serves as the base and power source for this charming world map. The globe is available in black or white.
The faint glow of this globe makes it an excellent substitute for a night light. Since this globe is suspended in space, it will help your little ones to better understand the physical properties of the actual earth.
Recommended Age: 12 months and up
Dimensions: 9.69 x 4.52 x 9.92 inches
Installation Method: Plug and play
Other Functions: Floating, spinning, lighting
Material: ABS Plastic
Little Experimenter Globe – Best Overall
If you want to put the whole world in your child’s hands, check out our best overall choice.
Oregon Scientific Smart Globe – Upgrade Choice
Spend a little more for the interactive
Waypoint GyroGlobe – Best Budget Buy
You won’t be disappointed by this fact-filled globe. If money is tight, check out our best budget pick.