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Social Studies

Dear Debi,
I love taking my kids on neighborhood walks, and they seem to enjoy them as well. Can you suggest a way for me to keep my kids interested in what they saw once we get back home?
Fred, Los Angeles, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • The neighborhood is a giant classroom
  • Take kids on neighborhood walks
  • First-hand experiences help teach social studies
Expert Advice
Greg Uba
Greg Uba
Children’s Services Coordinator, Connections for Children
The neighborhood is a giant classroom because it’s where kids have their first experiences with people who aren’t their family and with people doing jobs. I’ve taken kids on neighborhood walks and they’re fascinated by all the work that is getting done.

A child’s neighborhood gives them an idea of who they are in a larger community. This is the first time they’re expanding beyond their immediate family. In the classroom, the kids and provider are doing everything. This brings a bigger picture home to them.

In places like California where we drive everywhere, pedestrian culture has become de-valued. So it’s important for kids to get out and go on walks. When you take them on walks, get them to look at addresses so they can begin recognizing numbers. I’ve also noticed when they see construction sites, they’re fascinated because it’s something kids can relate to. Building a house in real life reminds kids of how they construct things with their building blocks, but now they see it with these grand tools and with big people doing it.

First-hand experiences are the foundation for helping children learn social studies concepts. We’ve taken kids to Cinco De Mayo celebrations and given them flags to expose them to different cultures. Kids love walking around with their flags and experiencing all the excitement going on around them.

Another great activity is having kids mail a letter to themselves. You can take a neighborhood walk to a mailbox. Have the kids prepare a letter for themselves or for their parents. Then have them take it to the mailbox. The little ones love to be picked up so they can look in the box when they drop the letter in. They can send a letter or draw a picture. This helps with literacy skills and teaches them about the neighborhood. This activity also introduces kids to the postal worker who delivers their mail.
Child Care provider Comments
Clarissa August
Clarissa August
Family child care provider for 21 years
I walk with the kids two or three times a week. The park is not too close but not too far, so we walk there. We also walk to the store. When they pass a police officer or crossing guard or parking attendant, they talk to all of them. The fire fighters play basketball in the park and the kids talk to them about what’s on their truck, why they’re not at a fire, all that kind of stuff. The fire fighters talk to the kids, let them look in the truck, wear their hats, and touch their coats. They talk to the people they pass in the community.
Sonnia Corzo
Sonnia Corzo
Child care provider for 6 years, mother of four
When we go on walks to the fire station, we talk to the fire fighters about being safe and about not playing with matches. We actually had one firefighter come to my home and talk to the kids about staying safe, keeping away from fire, and he gave them stickers. The kids enjoyed it a lot. After he left, they made a firefighter’s uniform and pretended to be him. They got the hose and turned it on and practiced putting out a pretend fire.

I also incorporate dramatic play with the mail carrier’s uniform. We have the kids write letters and put stamps on them and put them in the mailbox we made. Then one of the kids will dress like the carrier and pick up the mail.
Parent Comments
Father of one daughter
We’ve been in our neighborhood for 10 years and we always talk to our neighbors. When we walk to our local coffee shop, my daughter, Ginger, likes talking to the workers. Whenever they have free samples, she asks to taste them. One time while walking to the coffee shop, we noticed there was a small letter “g” on the sidewalk. We talked about that – how her name, Ginger starts with the letter “G” and what else starts with the letter “g”, etc.

Once a year we take a 2 pound box of candy to our neighborhood fire station, police station, and postal carrier. Ginger goes along with us to deliver them. One time a police officer gave her his business card. She was very excited.

We also take her to our local supermarket and she talks to Willy, a cashier/stock boy. She always gets a helium balloon from one of the cashier’s. When she was younger we talked about where the produce and fruit came from.

Habitat Map Featured Activity:
Habitat Map
Neighborhood Social Studies Featured Video:
Neighborhood Social Studies
Topic: Early Learning Areas
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