Monday, October 13, 2014


As seen in this video, my boys have been on fire learning the names and locations of all fifty of the United States.  They learned them using the traditional Montessori puzzle maps as well as a States' quarters map, and the Across the States game.  They also love to play  the  "Stack the States" game on our iPad.  The "Stack the States" game requires you to learn to recognize the states by shape, but also asks questions about capitals, flags, landmarks, border states, and major cities.  In order to master that game properly, the boys asked me to put something together to help them master the flags and capitals.  

By the way, I have a lot of other great ideas for learning about the fifty states pin on one of my Pinterest boards:  What DID We Do All Day? 50 States Pinterest Board.  

I made this mostly in the same way that I made our DIY pin maps of world parts.  I used the blank control map that is available to go with the Montessori puzzle maps taped to foam board.  I had lots of pins left over from that previous pin map project.  I hadn't used any of the blue-headed pins before so I used them for the USA map.  I made three sets of pins.  One has the state flags on them, as you can see in the pictures.  Another set is on red paper for the capitals and the last set is on green paper for the states' names.  

I simply wrote the name of the state or capital on the flag with a Sharpie.  The hole I made in each state is marked with a red Sharpie and is in the location of the state's capital.

Unfortunately DK Publishing doesn't make a sticker set for states' flags (although I see after the fact that other companies do such as these: 50 U.S. State Flags Mini Stickers ) so printed and cut my own.  They are larger than the flags I made for the maps of world parts.  The flags for each country are intentionally simple designs that can be identified from afar even on a windy day.  This makes it easy to shrink them down to sizes used in the sticker sets.  The states' flags are more complex (usually) and I made the flags much larger.  

A really easy place to print high-quality images of the states' flags is at the Professor Poppins blog.  I set my printer to print her download at 50% and they were just the right size.  Because they are larger than my other flags I had to use longer pins.  I used 2" T-pins, which were the longest I could find.  I cut all my flags, laminated, cut again, and finally poked the T-pin through the laminate and carefully slid it between the two back-to-back flag images inside.  Then, I slide the flag down, apply superglue to the pin and slide the flag back up into place.  Because I used longer pins they were less stable in the single layer of foam board I used for the rest of my maps. So, for this map I doubled up the foam board.

Even in the larger size it can be hard to see what exactly IS on the state flags.  My boys are also super interested in what is on each flag and why it is there.  So I bought The Nifty Fifty State Flags  book. 

It has postcard-sized images of each flag for detailed examination. I also has pages of questions that are essentially "I Spy" styled command cards to use with the flags. 

It is also possible to buy Set of 50, 4 by 6-Inch States' Flags for only $25 on Amazon.  

I made two types of controls for the map.  The first is in the same style that I made for our maps of world parts.  All fifty states are listed alongside their flag and capital.  You can see the boys using that control above. Unfortunately I accidentally alphabetized the list by state rather than capital.  The boys are going to be using this control when putting in the States' flags or capitals so it would be most useful alphabetized by capital.  It will take some time to redo that because when I realphabetize the program doesn't move the flags.  Grr.  Anyway, in the meantime here is a free download for what I have:

The other control is just for the flags, but is quick and handy to have.  I don't mind my boys using it because they already know the location of each state.  If your children don't, you might want to limit them to the other kind of control.  You can print it for free from Printable Paper.  Me Too likes to use a magnifying glass with it.

The map has prompted a lot of new work from Me Too.  He has favorite flags and flags he dislikes.    I told him that there are actually ways to score flags and principles of good flag design.  We looked them up on NAVA and read about which flags have the lowest and highest scores.    As a result, Me Too has designed his own country.  Each state is named after one of his stuffed dogs.  He has drawn a map of this country.  He is designing and drawing a flag for each state, scoring, and ranking them.  It is starting to remind me of traditional Montessori "imaginary island" work.  I'd like to parlay this into that, but he might be too young.

I think my favorite thing about this new map, by far, is that the boys like to work on it together...


  1. Awesome! This is on my list of things to do. I'll start it somewhere between baby starting to crawl and going to college :). Hopefully your blog will still be up when I'm ready. Seriously though, great job! I need to check out your pinterest page!

    1. That sounds like a perfectly reasonable timeline! We'll be here. I have a VERY awesome pinterest page :)

  2. cool thing about the working together. I haven't been able to find a work that T and S can really work on together. we are hoping to co-oping with some other students so maybe there will be some synergies there.
    Awesome map making job! I love seeing the independent work. I feel my kids really have a deep interest and have internalized the basics when tangential out-croppings occur. It is fun to see!

  3. T and S said to tell Kal-El and Me Too that the Texas State flag pole should be on the star side, not the stripe side. ;)

    1. It IS that way on the other side. I printed two copies of each flag and the flags are correct on the FRONT side of the flag. The back I'm only make correct if the flag can be turned upside down without impunity. The boys know that the flag looks correct when the flagpole is on the LEFT.

    2. Whew, you should have seen the look of concern on T's face. ;) That is one thing about TX, there are state flags EVERYWHERE.

      Oh and thanks for the flag book recommendation. I am ordering that right now.

  4. Where can I find the blank, big, USA map you have in one of your pictures?