A Neighborhood Map on Our Driveway

Our front yard
just got a lot more interesting for kids. I had a huge mural of our neighborhood painted on our driveway, with icons of places of interest beyond. Isn’t it beautiful? Doesn’t it look like fun? (See below.)

Mural - Wide

Mural artist Marta Ayala, on the left, puts some finishing touches on her masterpiece.

My idea is that neighborhood kids will mark up this map with chalk to denote places and things of interest to them (e.g. their house). Besides drawing, they may also write words to label the drawings, or they may even write messages about particular places.

Here's a close-up of the map. The green rectangle represents my lot. It's just wide enough for four four-knob wide Lego bricks.

Also, they’ll be able to play in 3D, recreating the neighborhood with physical toys on the map. I’ve carefully chosen a scale that will work with Legos and Hot Wheels (and Lincoln Logs and Matchboxes and HO train and race car sets). With Legos, kids can create a 5-inch wide (i.e. four four-knob bricks wide) house at each lot in our neighborhood, and four Hot Wheels can squeeze into a street just like they can – i.e. a parked car on each side and two cars passing each other.

This is the creek along the right side of our map, with a compass indicating where north is on the bottom right.

The layout of the map exactly matches our real-world neighborhood’s orientation, so that, for instance, the creek on the map is to the right, just as it is in real life. Thus, my hope is that the map reinforces kids’ geographical and spatial understanding.

Around the periphery are many icons of places of interest to our kids outside our immediate neighborhood. Some of these are just beyond our neighborhood’s borders (e.g. Safeway and our public elementary school), while others are much further away (e.g. San Francisco, Stanford, Europe, Mexico, and China). My hope is that kids will add their own icons for places they care about.

Here is one of many icons surrounding the map to represent places outside our neighborhood. I'm hoping kids create more of these on their own.

One special icon is the compass icon, which shows the true orientation of north, south, east, and west. Using this compass, I expect the kids to add other icons in a proper place, relative to our current position.

Since we’ve just completed this map, kids haven’t had a chance to use it much yet. The first day I let them play on it, my boys were scootering along streets on the map, taking care to not trample over the houses. This weekend, I suspect they’ll start making some Lego houses, since they’ve been talking about it.

Check back in the coming weeks/months to see how we use it.

How would you use it? How do you think kids might use it?

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