Geography is one of my favorite subjects. I love everything about maps, landforms, geographic locations—by the third grade, I could fill in a blank U.S. map, and all the capitals, too. So it’s no surprise that Silver Dolphin‘s Smithsonian Young Explorers 50 States Fact Book & Floor Puzzle, designed for kids ages 6 and up, already had an edge before I tested it. But it lives up to the hype, and I think it’s a great, interactive way for kids to learn their U.S. map and learn about the individual states.
For starters, the set is packaged in a sturdy carrying case with a secure snap closure and a handle, so kids can take it with them wherever they want. Inside, there’s a 130-piece, 24- by 18-inch puzzle of the map. Puzzles are fun in general anyway, and by adding the map, kids will learn where each state is located in relation to one another—both by matching up pieces, and by comparing pieces to the full image on the front of the carrying case. The map is colorful and well-illustrated, and each state features the state name, the capital and its location, and graphics that are relevant to the state, such as cacti in New Mexico, a shark off the coast of Florida, a shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico, and a teepee in South Dakota. These visual clues help kids remember details and facts about each state, as well as simple wildlife, vegetation, and culturally historical information.
Also included in the set is the Young Explorers 50 States Fact Book. The 32-page illustrated book features one or two state profiles per page. Each profile features the state name, the state abbreviation, a Did You Know? column with interesting facts about the state, and a Famous People From box with well-known or important people that hail from the state. The profiles are accompanied by images and graphics, as well as state nicknames, state flowers, state animals and birds, dates of statehood, and the state capital.
The set also includes a 27- by 19-inch wall poster, which is a fantastic addition to any kid’s room. Seeing it each day reinforces the information, and it also adds an attractive decorative element to a child’s bedroom or playroom.
Learning the map is something that I feel every child should do early. This book, puzzle, and poster set is engaging and fun, so kids can learn their state information without feeling like they’re in a lesson. Learning facts about other states is also a great way to encourage curiosity for travel, and further expand kids’ desire to explore the world around them.