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Teaching, Giving and Asking for Directions to Kids

importance of directions

We have all been in situations while going somewhere when we get confused about which way to go. At the next intersection, we wonder if we should keep going straight, turn right, turn left, or maybe make a U-turn because we might have missed our turn. An eerie feeling which most of us are by now extremely familiar with.

With the advent of GPS technology, we have aids such as Google Maps to help us out in such difficult situations. However, beyond a certain point, we are left to ourselves and this is when we stop on the roadside and request a bystander for directions. But, do today’s kids with their fancy smartphone apps, do they need to ask for directions? They do.

Asking and giving directions might sound mundane and perhaps even unnecessary, however, if you delve a little deeper, it offers some amazing growth and developmental benefits. Here are ways to teach, give and ask for directions.

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Asking for directions

The first and foremost quality needed to ask for directions is the acceptance that we might need help. This generates a sense of gratitude, eliminates the ego, and helps us learn that we all might need help from others on certain occasions.

When we do need help, we should be humble enough to realize and not hesitate to seek help, even from strangers if need be. Our entire life will be filled with situations where we will need help from others, and this learning is critical to navigate through those situations seamlessly.

Secondly, asking for directions requires unique abilities such as: selecting the right person to ask, social skills, being polite while asking for help, framing the question in such a way that the other person understands your requirements well, and then the ability to comprehend while receiving the directions. Consuming the directions requires a cognitive ability to visualize the onward route, and internalize it to follow the same during the remainder of the journey.

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Giving directions

Giving directions invokes certain key growth and developmental skills.

  1. Building a sense of helping others in need
  2. When a stranger asks you for direction, you always have a choice of not helping. Just the simple act of providing directions is a big step towards developing a helping and caring nature in kids.

  3. To give directions, you need to know the directions yourself
  4. Giving directions invokes other cognitive and social skills such as an ability to understand the question and, the ability to frame the answer in a form that is easily understandable to someone who may not be very familiar with the place.

  5. Knowing the destination
  6. Understanding where the destination is and then figuring out the best possible route to reach the destination from the current vantage point requires enhanced analytical skills. It also invokes interpersonal communication skills as we are mostly dealing with unknown situations, and sometimes even strangers who seek our help looking for directions.

Parents and teachers can follow various activities to teach kids how to give or ask for directions. Here are some techniques you can pursue.

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  1. Direction Terms
  2. The first step is to introduce the various terms kids need to use while dealing with directions. Introduce kids to the basic directions such as: straight, left, right, along, cross, around, across, next to, between, on/at, past. This will enhance spatial awareness and a sense of directional awareness among kids.

  3. Body Language
  4. Body language is an important aspect of communication. Encourage kids to use body language such as hand gestures, body movements, etc while giving or receiving directions. Using smart hand gestures and other bodily movements can help kids explain directions in a manner which is much easier for the listener to consume.

    This will help enhance communication skills for children as they learn how to use body language to enhance the impact of their communication.

  5. Active listening
  6. Active listening is one of the key elements, whether you are asking or giving directions. The one giving directions needs to listen to the one asking very carefully otherwise there are chances of you mishearing the destination and ending up giving the wrong directions.

    The same applies to the one asking for direction. If you do not listen carefully, you will miss one of the key directions and might again lose way down the line.

  7. Courtesy Etiquettes
  8. Courtesy and etiquette are of supreme importance, whether you are giving help or asking for help. Activities around asking or giving directions can be used as teaching moments for instilling courtesy etiquette among children.

    Being respectful, and grateful and using courtesy words and thank you can be instilled through these activities. Take them through the complete process of how to start the conversation when asking for directions and how to respond when giving directions. For example, kids can start by saying:

    • Excuse me, could you assist me in finding the closest ATM?
    • Can you please guide me to the nearest grocery store?
    • Could you tell me the best route to take to the hospital?
  9. Simulate activities
  10. A simple exercise could be to pick a familiar origin and destination and ask the kids to dictate the directions they need to take.

    For example, this could be one child telling his friend the way from their classroom to the football field, or the washrooms, etc.

    Introduce variations in terms of possible alternative routes that can be taken from the origin to reach the same destination. Introduce complexities in terms of distance between the two points. Engaging in such activities will enhance the directional sense of kids.

  11. Real experiences
  12. Create real experiences for kids when they put their learning into practice. While on a ride, encourage children to stop by and ask bystanders for directions. Please note that these must be done under adult supervision.

    Observe how kids frame the question, take note if they are being respectful, and then can they process the directions received into action by giving the adults instructions while driving?

Asking and giving directions builds an element of self-confidence and self-sufficiency among kids. Building the confidence to ask for directions sends a message to kids that they can reach wherever they want to by taking help from others. Giving directions builds a sense of confidence in children that they are capable enough to help others reach somewhere.

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