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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best geography learning materials

Last Updated May 2020

Did you know the world has 195 countries? Kids spend the better part of a decade or more learning about them through geography lessons. From world capitals to topography, there’s a lot of information to absorb and remember. That’s why so many educators, homeschoolers, and tutors turn to geography learning materials to solidify comprehension.

Depending on your child’s grade, geography is a dedicated class or is visited as part of social studies or history courses. It’s quite an extensive area of study, with a visual foundation in maps. Geography learning materials present various maps and provide supplemental exercises to get kids thinking about the globe. Whether kids are studying land formations or landmarks, one thing is for sure: geography learning materials must be engaging to be effective.

To help you find the right geography learning materials for your kids, give our buying guide a read. We’ve consulted experts to find the best ones available, plus we’re sharing helpful tips on how to supplement lessons. Keep reading to explore what’s on the market and around the world.

If you’d like to choose geography learning materials that align with your child’s curriculum, consider purchasing them from the same publisher as your child’s textbook.

Who benefits from geography learning materials?

Kids preparing for exams

Geography workbooks or activity books are ideal for kids preparing for exams. These supplemental materials offer a unique way to recap material, whether it’s through games, quizzes, or map-labeling exercises. They’re not just used to brush up on geography before a chapter test, though. Geography learning materials are helpful tools to assess — and boost — mastery and comprehension prior to standardized testing. 

Kids who need extra help

Kids who struggle with geography may benefit from practicing with supplemental materials at home. As these materials are ideal for self-paced learning, kids have the opportunity to ask questions without feeling self-conscious in a classroom. 

There are dedicated activity books for kids in this category, many of which depart from the conventional layout and approach of textbooks. The new way to “study” might be enough to help kids connect with geography for better comprehension. The approach of these materials tends to be softer and more encouraging as opposed to dry and didactic. 

Kids who love trivia

Geography learning materials aren’t just academic in nature. Some kids wait with bated breath to play Trivial Pursuit or envision trying out for Jeopardy! one day. Believe it or not, much of what is studied in K-12 geography classes appears in these games and tournaments. So, if you have a tiny trivia fanatic at home, consider investing in a fun workbook to help them level up their geography skills. 

EXPERT TIP

Visual learners do well with geography learning materials featuring vivid images and photography, as well as those with word-driven and labeling activities.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Geography challenges kids to channel their inner Magellan. It comes as no surprise that the curriculum uses maps as a starting point for most lessons.

Types of maps

At least one style of map will appear, at least partially, in a geography workbook. It’s important to know which ones are included in the materials, especially if you’d like to obtain materials that sync with what is being studied in class. Conversely, you can choose workbooks that cover new materials with different maps.

Political maps are the most commonly used in classrooms because they provide basic information such as capitals, borders, and major cities. 

Physical maps display the physical features of a place through land formations like mountains and bodies of water. Elevations are indicated by relief or shading to represent the variance in height and depth.

Topographic maps are different from physical maps in that they display physical features using contoured lines as opposed to shading. 

Climate maps depict climate zones, such as tropical, polar, or Mediterranean. They include information like humidity, temperature, or annual precipitation. 

Economic maps, also called resource maps, represent information related to economic activities such as manufacturing, food production, and natural resources. 

Map information

Depending on the material a geography workbook covers, you may find other map information. This in itself is important to learn because understanding the basics of maps contributes to a larger understanding of how to use them in a more sophisticated manner.

Workbooks featuring detailed maps include a compass, which indicates the map’s orientation. Place names are also included, and country and city names tend to be in larger or boldfaced type compared to smaller cities or land formations. A legend explains the different symbols used on the map, and there may be additional detail about the scale. 

Geography learning materials by grade

Early learners: Geography learning materials geared toward early learners are intended for kids ages 0 to 5. While it’s not an extensive category, there are some activity-driven books and materials. Because kids in this age group are budding independent readers, these materials help shape visual and auditory associations with geography vocabulary. Board books or interactive toys, for example, feature bright colors and focus on simple geography through generalized terms. Expect to find “sea” or “mountain” portrayed, as opposed to “Pacific Ocean” or “Himalayas.”

Grades K to 3: Kids get their feet wet in geography in kindergarten through third grade. These materials feature focused exercises that require critical thinking and recall and help build foundational knowledge when it comes to maps. They’re in no way restricted to just labeling maps or filling in the blanks, though. Rather, they encourage kids to navigate a simple map by following instructions or have them master information about a specific region, often in the United States. An exercise like this, for example, helps kids develop directional and spatial skills.

Grades 3 to 5: There’s a major difference between geography learning materials for grades K to 3 and grades 3 to 5. These require significantly more reading and engagement, and the exercises take longer to complete. Spelling and accuracy are also top priorities in these workbooks. Geography learning materials for this age group are intended to strike a balance between educational and recreational. Maps and exercises are more involved and formal, and they focus on more advanced materials driven by climate, topographical, or physical maps. Some workbooks, for example, offer an in-depth study of certain areas, such as Europe or the Pacific Northwest in the United States. 

Grades 6 to 8: Kids in these grades often study geography in conjunction with classes in social studies or world cultures. As a result, you’ll find a variety of integrated geography learning materials, some of which focus on geopolitical studies. With that said, these workbooks are typically more educational in orientation. Even so, they mostly fall into two categories: those featuring exercises with colorful images and maps, and those that come across as more formal Q & A formats focusing on hard facts. Some materials come with access to the publisher’s online learning platform for extended activities, games, or mock tests.

Activities and exercises

To the credit of the publishers producing geography learning materials, no two workbooks are alike. Each features a unique collection of activities, and while some of them are similar, kids can enjoy a fun learning experience with each of them. 

Labeling shows up in countless iterations in geography workbooks, whether it’s writing, drawing icons, or coloring. This boosts location knowledge and helps kids build a global landscape in their mind.

Word-driven activities are popular, especially since they improve spelling and pronunciation. Fill-in-the-blank, word searches, word scrambles, and crosswords are popular. 

Navigation activities challenge kids to use their spatial and directional knowledge to find their way around a map or “obstacle course.” They’re also popular for improving kids’ listening and observational skills because following instructions is key to completing them.

Quizzes are included to simulate the test-taking experience, making them one of the most educational activities in the workbook. These include true or false, multiple choice, and open-ended questions. Answers are typically in the back of the book.

Matching exercises help kids make meaningful associations between bits of information. In one manner or another, the main goal of these activities is to help kids compartmentalize details to solidify a bigger picture of a geographic region.

DID YOU KNOW?

Some geography workbooks have perforated pages that kids can tear out once they complete an exercise.

Geography learning materials prices

Geography learning materials range in price from $5 to $25 and mostly include varieties of workbooks. The more research that goes into the book’s development, the more it costs, but it’s definitely money well spent.

Inexpensive: Shorter workbooks with limited color images or photos are inexpensive, costing $10 and less. These are typically assembled by lesser-known educational publishers. 

Mid-range: For materials with more in-depth activities, namely those geared toward third through eighth grades, you’ll spend closer to $15. Major names in the educational materials space like Rand McNally and National Geographic have many materials available in this price range.

Expensive: Niche geography learning materials cost closer to $25. These are often one-of-a-kind books that are part informative and part exercise. The books usually feature attractive high-resolution images.

Some activities or exercises take longer to complete than others. This is normal because challenge levels are intended to vary throughout the workbooks.

Tips

  • Have kids work on the materials outside. Geography is a physical study, so encourage kids to go outside with their workbook. It gives them an opportunity to flex their observation skills and apply their newly acquired knowledge to the world around them. 

  • Check the year of publication. Make sure you’re investing in the publisher’s latest edition of geography learning materials. Otherwise, you may encounter out-of-date information. 

  • Purchase a book for tutoring help. If your child works with a tutor, choose some geography learning materials that they can use during private lessons.

EXPERT TIP

Educational publishers often release a series of learning materials that progress by grade or age group. If your child does well with one level, try the next installment in the series.


Staff  | BestReviews

FAQ

Q. I feel like my child is a bit too advanced for their intended age group’s geography learning materials. What are my options?
A. There are two options here. Either buy the next level up to see whether it engages your child, or consider switching to a different publisher with a different collection of exercises. Ask your child what challenges them the most when it comes to geography, and seek materials that are geared toward that information as well.

 

Q. Are there any geography learning materials for high schoolers?
A. There are very few “fun” activity books focused on geography for this age group. High schoolers are usually focused on preparing for big exams, such as the PSAT, SAT, or ACT. As a result, any study guides or supplemental materials are test focused as opposed to subject oriented.

 

Q. How long does it take to complete a geography workbook?
A. Books range in length from 30 to 100 pages, and some parents pace kids to work on a few activities a week. On average, they can last between a month and an entire summer. It mostly depends on how intense you’d like the geography study to be.

The team that worked on this review
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    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Kristin
    Kristin
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Sian
    Sian
    Writer
  • Steph
    Steph
    Web Producer

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