Learn How to Use a Compass

Learn how to find your way around using a compass.

What You Need

  • Compass
  • Paper
  • Pencil or markers

What You Do

  1. Explain What a Compass Is
    Explain that you can use a compass to help you find your way. A compass is a tool that can tell you what direction you’re heading in. Since its orienting needle always points north, it helps you figure if you’re going north, east, south, west or somewhere in between.
  2. Go For a Practice Run
    Mark your starting point with a rock or stick. Help your child use the compass to follow the directions below:

    • Go north 5 paces
    • Walk west 10 paces.
    • Go south 20 paces.
    • Walk east 15 paces.
    • Go north 15 paces.
    • Walk west 5 paces.

    Look down. Do you see the marker? You should be back where you started.

  3. Make a Map
    Have your child pick a distant tree or some other landmark. Then use instructions like the ones in the practice run to create a map to the endpoint. Make sure to mark your starting point and to write down the twists and turns your child has created to get to the destination. Now your child has all the skills to make a treasure map, with directions and distances as its clues. You both can create one together, or you could bring out a map you’ve made earlier that leads to a fun hidden treasure! (Remember, a child’s paces are smaller!)
  4. Talk About Compasses
    People have been using compasses for more than 1,000 years. Guiding pirates to treasure is one use. Ask your child what other people use compasses for (mapmaking, navigating at sea, hiking, mountain climbing, etc.).