Make A Treasure Map

Treasure Map

Ahoy there! International “Talk Like A Pirate Day” is just around the corner. On September 19, we celebrate the fun of, well… talking like a pirate! To get ready for the big day, Kidspace is going to talk maps – specifically, treasure maps.

Treasure Map

Map Making Is Awesome

Maps are a fundamental way we communicate, understand, interpret, and connect with our world. David Sobel has said that, “Map making, in the broad sense of the word, is as important to making us human as music, language, art, and mathematics.

Maps call us to adventure, inviting us to discover and explore worlds and ideas. They connect children to their home, developing a sense of place and community. Map making also supports the development of important skills like observation and communication. It introduces ideas like symbols, scale, and direction in tangible ways.

Treasure Map Making

  • Paper – Brown paper grocery bags work great, but any paper will work.
  • Pencil – You can skip this if you are brave and want to go straight to ink.
  • Markers, colored pencils, crayons, or any kind of ink pen or paint you have available.
  • Your imagination…


  1. Crinkle your paper
    If you would like to have a rustic looking map, crinkle and smooth out the paper a few times. If you are using white paper and would like it a more brown color, you can stain it by placing it in a rimmed cookie sheet and rubbing it with wet coffee grounds or a black tea bag. Note, if you choose this option, you will need to let the paper dry before you move on to the next steps.
  2. Choose the scope of your map
    Pick what area of your house you will map. Will it take place in one room, two, the entire house, maybe even the yard? Consider starting small, then working up to larger more complex areas. I started by mapping my living room.
  3. Use a pencil to sketch your map
    Think about what is important to know in order to navigate the area of your map. You might choose to start by outlining walls and rooms or start with a central piece of furniture or key features of the space and work from there. Starting in pencil allows you to make changes if you mess up – and as a bonus, erasing the paper helps give it that well-worn look!
  4. Name your landmarks and add your compass
    Use your imagination to name your key landmarks, and don’t forget to add a compass rose for direction. Most phones have a compass app on them, if you are not sure what the directions are!
  5. Add ink and color
    Use your pens, paints, and color utensils to fill in your map. If you only have a pen, that’s okay! Pirate maps look great with lots of color or just black ink.
  6. Final touches
    If you want to give your map a well-work look, this is a great time to carefully tear off the edges of your paper!

Ways to Play

Go on a Treasure Hunt!

Hide treasure (stickers, snacks, or pennies are fun) and mark it on the map (X marks the spot) for your child to find! Consider adding lines for a suggested path, riddles, clues, and warnings for your adventurer to follow. Mix it up by having the entire family take turns hiding treasure to see if the others can follow the map to find it.
Level up the learning by taking the time to talk about how the hunt went. Some example questions include:

  • What things on the map were the most/least helpful?
  • What might we change on our map for next time?
Expand and Contract

If you have mapped one room, can you map the whole house? What about the yard? Neighborhood? Alternately, what if you zoomed in really close into one room, or one part of a room. Play with adding and taking away details to grow and shrink the scope of a map is a great way to introduce and talk about scale.

Map More

Maps can communicate all kinds of information! What are some other things that can be mapped? Some ideas to get your started:

  • Where you go and what you do there each day.
  • Favorite places to play, hide, or read.
  • Where pets like to hang out.
  • Where flowers or bugs are growing or living. Using maps to observe nature is great, because the map can be checked and updated regularly!

This is a great opportunity to talk about map keys and symbols.

Extend the Learning
  • For learners ages 3 to 4, consider starting with a map of just one room using blocks or other items. Try pointing out on the model where you have hidden something. Help them think through how to find it.
  • Practice using and looking at maps. What do you notice about other maps? How do they use color? Keys? Symbols? How are maps different from one another? Why might that be? What kinds of information do different maps communicate?
  • Try mapping places in our imagination. Maps are often included in literary works – make a map of a location described in a favorite book or story, or make up your very own world!
More Resources!

Why Children Still Need to Read (and Draw) Maps
Map Skills for Elementary Students

You might also be interested in: Dress Like A Pirate

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