Researcher Meik Wiking of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen suggested taking advantage of our time in social isolation to make a “treasure map” of happy memories. Sound like something you’d like to try with your children? Let us show you how!
Explore your surroundings
Since schools have now been closed for several weeks, you may be grasping at straws for ways to keep your children entertained while stuck at home. Have you already created a map of your home or neighbourhood yet? Yeah, didn’t think so. Dig out a notepad, pencil, compass, headlamp and the old “Walkie-Talkie” and get ready for an adventure that’s just around the corner!
If you have very young children, they can pretend to be explorers by crawling under the beds or searching through the closet for hidden treasures or secret passageways. As they go from room to room, ask them to draw their route on a large piece of paper. You can give them a hand by filling in the finer details (where the armchair, picture frames or stuffed toys are located). This will help them remember where certain rooms are when it’s time to draw their map.
If your kids are a bit older, give them coordinates and challenge them to find each place using a compass and the four cardinal points. If they get stuck, give them a hint over the radio and encourage them to keep at it. Write down or ask them to write down any information that might help them when it comes time to draw their map. Have them take pictures of any landmarks or points of reference they might find helpful. Why not up the ante by creating some rules? For example, make it a rule that once they sit down at the table to draw their map, they cannot get up again and wander around the house. You can even bring out the stopwatch and put a time limit on how long they can spend gathering the information they will need to draw their map.Orienteering equipment Radios
Drawing the map
Once you’ve let them explore the house high and low, set everything up at the table and let them draw the map. Coloured pencils, markers, chalk, paint, collage—let their imagination run wild! The goal is to have your children draw a map that will help them familiarize themselves with their surroundings. If you have older children, encourage them to include as much detail as possible! You might even want to take things a step further and dust off the ruler and calculator so that you can figure out the exact dimensions of each space.
If you have younger children, just focus on having fun. Let them scribble, doodle or draw the couches in the living room, the cats near the litterbox or even the fruits and vegetables in the dining room. What matters most is that they know they are drawing their own home.
Label every nook and cranny
Once the map is all drawn up, ask your children about their fondest family memories in each room of the house. Drawing a blank? Jog their memory by telling them about your own favourite memories. Flip through a photo album and ask them some questions to get the ball rolling.
Do their eyes light up when you tell them about making a humongous pillow fort out of old sheets and cushions? Or what about that time you whipped up a batch of cookies for Santa Claus? Think about your family’s unique traditions and customs.
Use these memories as inspiration when labelling each area of the house. You might decide to label the living room “the dragon’s den,” your youngest child’s room might become “the mega-ship” and mom’s office may be lovingly dubbed “the enchanted library!”
Put the finished product on display!
Once your children are satisfied with their map and every area has been carefully labelled, hang it on a wall, stick it to a door or pin it to a bulletin board and find fun ways to incorporate it into game night or even your daily routine. Instead of saying “come into the living room,” try and get your children to say, “rendezvous at the meeting point” or “the dragon’s den awaits!”
If you decide to map out your entire neighbourhood, you can use the map to pinpoint where you can pick blueberries, find maple leaves, watch squirrels or take out the garbage! All that’s left to do is to label each place and name it after one of the new and lasting memories that you’ve created.
Looking for something a little simpler? Go ahead and use a hand-held GPS to write down any changes in elevation, find all of the street names in your neighbourhood, locate the river nearby and mark down the location of your friend’s and grandparent’s houses, the school or grocery store… your children’s imagination is the limit! Anything goes! Sharpening your children’s sense of direction while at home is a great way to prepare them for the even bigger and better adventures to come. Adventure awaits!