DIY Africa Map and Pin Flags – Hands-on Geography Activity

From early years children learn the basics of the world with Geography lessons. They are encouraged to explore the seven continents, each individual continent’s geographical location on the world map, learn about flora and fauna, cultural traditions, cuisine, and history.

Learning the names and positions of different countries around the world on a map does not have to be boring. In Montessori, we make it hands-on, and interactive with the help of kinesthetic-tactile materials and various resources.

In our classroom, we have just completed a series of presentations and learning activities on air, land, water; land and water forms; names and geographical locations of the seven continents with my kindergarten-aged child. So the first continent he chose to learn about was Africa.

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There are fantastic non-fiction works of literature available on Africa that help to lay a wonderful background for learning about all the different aspects of the continent. With interactive and tactile activities children absorb all the fascinating facts and gain deep Geographical knowledge about the continent whilst working on enhancing their concentration skills, literacy, numeracy, and fine motor skills.

This work with Africa map and pin flags was very engaging and provided a positive challenge for little fingers that are still in the process of refining motor movements.

Here is what I did to prepare this work with an African political map and pin flags.

If you wish to replicate this activity in your setting here is what you can do:

1 . Print and laminate colored political maps of Africa – one with labels and another map with capital city locations marked with stars. You can find the printable here.

2. Print and cut card country strips with flags and capital cities. Please note you won’t need all 58. I only marked capital cities that are presented on the Montessori Africa Map Puzzle.

3. Fold card strips in half and glue them around toothpicks.

4. Poke holes on the map with a push pin in place of stars (location of the capital cities).

5. Use a rolling pin to roll playdough to make a ‘mat’ the size of your map. Place the map on top.

6. Have a control map with country labels available for the child to locate each country.

Here are my recommendations

Start by presenting flags of 3 different countries. Show one flag at a time, name the country. Find it first on the labeled map. Invite the child to say its name and trace the country outline with his or her finger.

Then have the child pin the flag to the correct location on the pin map. Repeat until the student loses interest and is invited to revisit this work when desired.

You may like to remind the students to be careful with the top tips of the toothpicks so they won’t poke their little fingers while pinning flags or cutting the tips of the toothpicks with scissors.

With older children or if you feel the child is ready, you may also like to name each country’s capital.

In the small group setting, children who can read may like to take turns pinning flags. As a variation, students can pin flags in alphabetical order or to the countries from the largest to the smallest.

As a follow-up exercise, you can use map outlines for the students to color and label the map. Print 4 pages per sheet and make a student booklet “My booklet of African countries”. Invite the child to color and label as many countries as desired- one page per country.

Here are more recommendations kindly shared with me by one of the readers

We used to make flags for the puzzle maps in the MCH.

Perhaps you might like to try these ideas: 

If you use a pair of scissors to cut the sharp point off one end of the toothpick/cocktail stick, it makes them less of a hazard. 

Glue the flag with this cut end inside, so both the flag and the toothpick end are flush with each other. 

Cork bottle stoppers can make bases for the flags. Use a glue gun to fix the sharp end of the toothpick into the cork bottle stopper. Check that the cork stopper is stable when the flag is attached as the size is relevant.

You may have to trim the flag size to suit and buy the right-sized cork.

It is possible to prepare the bases ahead so the child just fixed the flag to it. The flags can then stand independently on the map.
There are photocopy masters available for all the flags and the children can color them independently, personalizing their learning.
We also made duplicate copies of the African continents map so you have one for all the flags and another for the capital cities. Africa, in particular, can be very crowded otherwise!

As you probably know the Montessori Continents Globe distinguishes the continents by color. Africa is green. It makes it easier if the flagsticks are painted green and the names of capital cities are printed on green paper.

As the children, following their own interests, gradually discover all the continents it is easier to sort if the materials for each continent are a color-coded match.

resources you might find helpful in your classroom

About Anastasia - Anastasia is an early childhood teacher and the founder of Montessori Nature - a blog about Montessori living and learning and nature-based explorations. With many years of experience working in a Montessori environment and homeschooling her children, she directed her passion for all things Montessori and nature into creating educational resources. You can learn more here and browse her printables on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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