Better than a trail of breadcrumbs

©Glenn Althor www. Used with permission.

©Glenn Althor  Used with permission.

When I think of children’s stories about being lost, Hansel and Gretel is one of the first that comes to mind. Whether or not this gruesome story is suitable for children, I’ll leave for another discussion. The children were correct in thinking it was important to mark their way into the forest in order to find their way out. They were incorrect in their choice of markers.

Encouraging children to identify features of their environment has benefits beyond encouraging them to question and wonder. It is important for children to learn, from a young age, to identify markers on routes around the neighbourhood, shopping mall and school, as well as strategies to implement if lost or separated. Taking note of seasonal and other changes, both temporary and permanent, in addition to permanent features helps to build knowledge of one’s environment. This knowledge can be developing long before the need to find one’s way alone arises.

One day there will be a need to navigate independently, whether it be to walk to school, go to the shop, visit a friend, catch a bus or drive a car. All of these will be far less daunting for the child, and much less worrisome for the parents, if the ability to find one’s way around has already been demonstrated through discussions or deciding which route will be taken for a journey.

Often the first time children are required to navigate independently is when commencing school. They may need to find their way to the classroom in the morning, or to the gate in the afternoon. They will have to find the way to the playground, the office, the library, and the toilets and back to the classroom. Just as parents show children around the neighbourhood by pointing out landmarks, it is important for teachers to orient children in the school grounds and ensure they know how to find their way around confidently.

A delightful book that can be used by both teachers and parents to discuss the importance of knowing one’s way around and of staying safe is the beautiful Pat Hutchins’ book Rosie’s Walk which tells the story of a hen who goes for a walk around the farmyard and gets back home safely in time for dinner. The story also introduces many positional words.

Rosie's walk

Understanding of positional terms and describing the location of neighbourhood and school landmarks in relation to each other  helps to develop spatial awareness along with language; for example:

  • past the shop
  • across the bridge
  • over the road
  • through the park
  • in the middle
  • beside the lake
  • along the road
  • next to the bakery
  • around the corner
  • behind the fence
  • as well as left and right.

Discussing the placement of landmarks on a mud map of the neighbourhood or school and discussing different paths that could be taken encourages divergent thinking about ways of getting from one place to another. Sometimes it helps children to think of these maps as being from a birds’eye view, or from a plane. Other maps, for example Google Maps and street directories are also useful and children can learn to point out or mark places they have visited.

mud map

There are many opportunities, whether in the car or on foot, to take note of landmarks; for example:

  • house numbers,
  • types of fences
  • the number of streets to cross
  • large trees
  • the shopping centre entry
  • carpark space row and number
  • bridges crossed

While the flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week was to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about someone or something that’s lost, I have taken the theme of lost and used it to provide strategies that may help children avoid becoming lost. My flash is a rhyme for young children, and an example of the types of things that children can be encouraged to observe in their neighbourhood.

To Grandma’s House

Bub’s buckled in, away we go.

Mum’s going to work, we can’t be slow.

Down the street past the green painted door.

Past the house with big number four.

Stop at the curb and look each way.

Off to Grandma’s, hip-hip-hooray!

Quiet past here so the dogs don’t bark.

Left at the corner and cut through the park.

Up the hill, past the posting box.

Open the gate, give three big knocks.

Hugs for Grandma waiting for us.

Wave to Mum as she boards the bus.

Go inside for milk and toast.

Days with Grandma we like the most.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.




21 thoughts on “Better than a trail of breadcrumbs

  1. stuckinscared

    What an adorable rhyme, Norah. Do you mind if I print it off to sing (also known as make an unholy noise ;o) ) with my Littlie… I think she’d enjoy. It’s funny, I’m always making up daft Ditties for her at home, yet it never occurred to me to make up a direction song while out… a good idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you Kimmie. I’m flattered that you would print it out and sing it to Littlie. I’d love to hear the ditties you make up for sharing directions with her. 🙂


  2. macjam47

    Norah, I love your poem. What fun for children to listen to, and each could be asked to insert their own directions (rhyming not necessary). My sons used to love to make maps of the neighborhood, including the way to their friends’ homes, where they all placed their hidden treasures, the way around the house they called haunted (it wasn’t). So much fun.
    Very important lessons can be fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Michelle. I’m glad you like it. Yes, the children could make up their own poems or songs, and definitely no rhyme needed.
      Maps are fun to draw aren’t they? I’m sure your boys and their friends had fun playing hide and seek with their treasures around the “haunted” house.
      And you are so right: much learning can be achieved through fun – particularly when the learners are directing the fun themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Lost « Carrot Ranch Communications

  4. Charli Mills

    It’s the simple strategies we sometimes forget as adults — to find your way, stop and look at landmarks. While this is a lesson for children, it is a broader lesson for us to pay attention to our surroundings. Such a darling flash fiction that has me feeling like a child, skipping along the way!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Charli. It’s a delightful thought to skip joyfully along the way without a care in sight. If only!
      Although I didn’t state explicitly in my post, the essence of it was being explicit about our decisions re routes as well as observation of landmarks – sharing our thinking, which is usually hidden.


  5. New Journey

    love your poem….my husband has a terrible sense of direction…we travel a lot and I do most of the driving…I have learned not to argue and just follow his directions and when we get to the place he has directed me to and its not where he thought it was he scratches his head and states the house/store must of been moved…LOL love it….thanks for the great post…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for sharing your experiences, Kathy. You are very accommodating to follow your husband’s directions when you know they are incorrect.I think that’s hilarious! Hopefully you end up somewhere interesting anyway. It reminds me a little of car rally stories friends tell me.


      1. New Journey

        I have learned which battles I care to fight with this stubborn man!!! lol….driving in the wrong direction to prove my point in silence is somehow quite rewarding….lol and I have seen somewhere I wouldn’t have…its all good….we normally have nothing my time on our hands…LOL

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Sarah Brentyn

    Yup, this is me. I like my directions like your little rhyme. I think I look quite like a deer in headlights when someone says, “Left on Maple, right on Cardinal, left on Main, follow for 2 miles, left on Water, right at traffic light on Richmond, second house on Orchid.” O_o I much prefer, “Left at Charlie’s pub, right at Joe’s pizza, left at the huge oak tree, follow to the ice cream place with the giant dancing strawberry cone, left at the high school, then it’s the house with the purple fence and gnomes in the garden.” Yes. I’ll get there if I get those directions.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Yes. Those directions are much more fun and easier to visualize aren’t they? More meaningful too. With the first set you just about have to know where you are going to understand them! Thanks for sharing. 🙂


  7. roweeee

    We have great fun with navigation here. My husband is great with navigation and my mother and I are hopeless. My son is Mum’s navigator. That said, a few years ago the kids snuck off on a bike ride together and Mister arrived home saying he’s lost MIss. Not only had he lost her but he didn’t know where so we got in the car and started the search. Eventually, I hear this wailing “Mummy! Mummy!” outside the pet shop. One of the girls in my son’s class, her family owned it and there she was. I should write my mobile number on their hands but I do arrange to find them somewhere if we’re in a crowd.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Oh dear. Poor little girl lost. You must have been frantic. I’m so pleased the story had a happy ending. And it is definitely good to have strategies organised if becoming separated in crowded places. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Annecdotist

    Love it, Norah! I don’t think I’d thought very much about her children have to learn to navigate but interesting how it dovetails with my post where I was originally going to say more about learning to navigate the countryside and how we need to take into account lots of different features, not just the obvious.
    A book I loved as a child was Milly Molly Mandy that included a map of the village where she lived which always fascinated me, but I don’t remember ever drawing my own. For what a great way of helping children to feel comfortable with their environment.
    It also makes me reflect on getting travel directions from friends before the days of satnavs – and how many people’s directions would feature pubs – we almost missed different things to guide us.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Anne. I’m pleased you enjoyed it, and I look forward to reading your post to see how they align. The use of pubs as landmarks is interesting. That’s all some people would see in their environment and I maybe wouldn’t find them useful at all (well, not so much anyway!)
      I don’t remember reading Milly Molly Mandy though the title is very familiar to me. I did have other books with maps though and I think children love to explore the worlds of stories through their maps.
      The images of the earth now available through Google maps is fascinating and so much more interesting than the old black and white aerial photos we saw once or twice in school! I couldn’t figure them out at all.

      Liked by 2 people


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