“Travel the globe without leaving your living room” is written on the front of Maps, our favourite children’s Atlas featured on the list below. We think this is an excellent mantra these days, with travel plans put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic. Through a combination of drawings, pictures, facts and maps, travel books are an excellent way for children to explore the world. It’s not just about learning more about geography, capitals and flags. It’s also about learning how climate, nature and culture impact people, shaping who we are.
We like the type of travel books that spark our imagination. Our kids typically get fascinated with exotic animals and food, which is an excellent starting point to learn more about a country. The starting point for wanting our children to become curious explorers of the world around them is to teach them respect for others. The poorest countries often have the coolest animals and the best food, and we much rather want them to learn about new countries from this perspective than categorised by economic development and history.
Make your own children’s atlas
We also have a suggestion for how to create an interactive session with your kids make your own map! We did this by taping together a bunch of A4 sheets, sketching out the world and continents and then letting the kids do the rest. They had great fun colouring the rainforest green and the desert yellow while placing animals figures out on the map according to their natural habitat. We used National Geographic’s Wild Animals Atlas as a template when drawing the map and placing out the animal figurines, but this can obviously be done with free resources on the web as well. Lots of fun for the kids, definitely recommended! What you need for this exercise is:
- Sheets of white paper
- Clear Tape
- Animal figurines
Our kids are obsessed with the incredible detailed Schleich Wild Life figurines which are pricey, but will also last a lifetime or two!
Our favourite children’s Atlases
While travel books is a broad genre, we have focused on children’s atlases in this post. Having said that, some of the books below have more of a focus on animals rather than on maps and might be better described as animal atlases. In any case, we think it’s a solid list, and you can’t go really wrong with any of these books. Note that we own the top 4 books on the list below, and have included three additional ones based on feedback from others.
Wild Animal Atlas: Earth’s Astonishing Animals and Where They Live
By National Geographic
Best for 5-9 year olds
Our daughter has always been very interested in animals and nature, and this animal atlas makes it possible to combine that passion with learning geography at the same time. As you would expect from National Geographic you get terrific animal photography and colourful maps make this a fun and engaging Atlas for young readers. The animals are organised by region including a unique feature of one to four animals in the area. The Atlas is not going into great details, but great for young preschoolers just starting to get into maps and countries.
By Anna Claybourne
Best for 4-8-year-olds
This book is packed with beautiful drawings of animals from polar bears in the freezing Arctic to orangutans in the humid rainforest. Animal Atlas is a lot more detailed than the book from National Geographic and great for older preschoolers and school-age children. Especially for kids that are passionate about nature and animals, this is a great segway to learn more about geography and the world we live in. After reading this Atlas, our trips to the National History Museum became even more interesting!
The Usborne Children’s Picture Atlas
By Ruth Brocklehurst
Best for 4-7-year-olds
This is an excellent book for children beginning to understand the link between countries, nature and animals. We like how the book starts by explaining different natural elements like ice and snow, grasslands, lakes and oceans and then later place these elements on the maps with the animals. The maps are richly illustrated; however, they are quite high level showing whole continents so not a lot of country-level detail. Every map exhibits the countries, their capital cities, most famous landmarks, the longest rivers and highest mountains.
Maps – our current favourite children’s atlas
By Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski
Best for 7-9 year-olds
Maps is our favourite children’s Atlas by far, having sparked countless hours of conversations about what to see and do in different countries. The maps are cleverly illustrated, condensing the gist of each country on a double-page. We think this is a fantastic way for children to explore and discover the world compared to traditional textbooks or just googling a massive amount of information. The maps show borders, cities, rivers, and mountain peaks, as well as places of historical and cultural importance, personalities, animals and plants.
Children’s Illustrated Atlas
By Andrew Brooks
Best for 9-12-year-olds
This children’s Atlas is an engaging introduction to the continents and countries, taking you on a beautiful tour of our planet. From north to south, each section is brought to life with striking images and illustrations showing geography, landscape, culture and history. You’ll find more than 50 amazing maps full of fun and fresh photos followed by information about climate, population, star sites, mountains, rivers, and wildlife.
Collins Children’s Picture Atlas
By Collings Maps, Steve Evans
Best for 8-12-year-olds
This Collins edition is another well-illustrated children’s Atlas. The book takes kids on a journey around our planet, through continents and countries showing fun facts and exciting places to visit. Maps are easy to understand, exciting and perfect for children to us when exploring new parts of the world.
Big Picture Atlas
By Emily Bone, Dan Taylor
Best for 4 to 10-year-olds
This children’s Atlas contains 15 beautifully illustrated maps, where you can discover countries, continents, oceans, mountains and ice caps. The maps are cleverly combined with animals, as well as facts about each country. We also like how flags and capital cities have been seamlessly integrated for the various countries.
If you’re looking for more activities, check out our post with 100+ activities for kids at home!