Weekly Wonder Toy: iTikes Map

I’m a firm believer in the importance of understanding geography. In an increasingly global world, having an understanding of the different places in the world and where they are located makes for a complete education. When we meet people from other countries, it’s nice to have an idea of where they are from. It’s also good to set goals for interstate and international travel. God made this big, beautiful world for us to explore.
Even though I teach English, I keep maps in my classroom so students can geographically track everything we read. Once, I asked a student to mark Maryland with a post-it note and he stuck it somewhere near Texas. Seeing as how geography is no longer taught in most public high schools, I feel students are being done a great disservice.
I want Collin and Frank to have an understanding of the world, so I’ve already started teaching them Geography. For Christmas, Santa brought Collin the Little Tikes iTikes Map. 
It’s a little wider than a laptop with interchangeable maps of the solar system, dogs of the world, cats of the world, world music, U.S. monuments and landmarks, and U.S. dinosaurs. Facts about the different places pictured on each map are revealed using the included electronic pen. The map also interacts with a free app for the iPhone or iPad. (Unfortunately, my iPhone 5 does not connect to the map as earlier versions can). The app allows for animated video content for enrichment when the Apple device is guided over the map. Quizzes at different levels are available for each item on the map, as well.
Collin is a little young to reap some of the map’s benefits, but the unstructured discovery time he’s spent is beginning to pay off.
On Monday, while we were at Noodles and Company, Collin saw a picture of the Earth on a poster and said, “Look, Mommy! That’s our planet! That’s where we live!” When I ask him what country he lives in, he still says, “Afastrolia,” but a little more supervised time with the map will help him improve. (At least he can recognize the flag and name our town.)
I had a lower-tech version of a similar US map as a child, and I still picture that map and the associated facts whenever someone mentions a state. When I had to memorize every country in the world for a college geography class, and summoned a visual snapshot of the map we had hanging in our toy room. Some of the countries had changed over the years, and even since my college course, but being able to picture the places of the world has helped me to make many new friends and hold a greater appreciation for literature, film, news, and my own dreams of touring the world. I hope the iTikes Map will offer the same rewards for my boys.
 

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.