One strategy for teaching children how to organize their thoughts is by teaching them the visual technique called mind mapping. Mind maps allow students – and even adults – to organize their thoughts through the construction of a graphic organizer. Sign up for a class on mind mapping, which will teach you how to create mind maps and includes a list of software that can be used for this purpose.
What’s So Great About Mind Maps for Kids?
Mind maps let a person use both sides of their brain – their left and their right. As you may know, the left side of the brain is responsible for organization while the right side is in charge of your creativity. (Sign up for Whole Brain Thinking to learn more about this fascinating subject!) If you can utilize both sides of your brain when learning something new, or when developing ideas about something that interests or is important to you, chances are you will understand the concept a lot better once the mind map is completed. (In fact, some people find that, after creating a mind map, they don’t have to go back to that visual organizer as they finish composing their thoughts!) Learn more about why mind maps work by taking our course Mind Maps and Mind Mapping.
What Are Mind Maps for Kids Used For?
Mind maps for kids can be used for a variety of educational related school tasks, such as generating a book report on George Washington or identifying crucial things that happened during a particular historical event, such as the Civil War. A basic mind map can even be taught to younger learners. For example, if you are talking about whales you might create a mind map to list the details and facts you know about these animals.
Mind Maps for Kids . . . And Teens . . . and Adults!
In this article we will focus on mind maps for kids, but it’s important to understand that mind mapping is not just for children. Mind mapping techniques can be used by people of all ages who want to organize their thoughts. The great thing about learning to create a mind map when you want to organize thoughts and facts more easily is that you can do this whether you are a seven year old second grader or a twenty one year old senior in college. Furthermore, an adult manager of a company might create a mind map when thinking about a specific technique that might improve business (ie: how to get more customers in the restaurant on Monday night). We offer a course on mind mapping for professionals that was developed to teach you how to use mind mapping in business. A working mom might create a mind map if she needs to come up with ideas on how to get the children to basketball practice when she has to work late several nights each week.
The Goal of Mind Maps for Kids
The goal of the mind map is not to create a pretty visual picture but instead to create a visual organizer that will give you information or ideas about one specific topic that you are trying to learn, organize or develop ideas about. Don’t worry if you feel you can’t draw ‘well’; that doesn’t matter! You don’t need to end up with a beautiful picture in order to have a mind map that works. Make sure your students or children know this, too. Don’t let them get stuck on the way the visual looks; instead, focus on how it organizes the thoughts.
Mind Maps – More Than One?
If you Google the term mind maps for kids you will find a variety of websites that talk about mind mapping. Many mind maps are based on the ideas set forth by Tony Buzan, and these are the ideas that this article also follows. For the purpose of this article, think of a mind map as something created around a main theme with curved branches that flow away from that central idea. Your main theme might be circled or enclosed in a box in the middle of your sheet of paper. The branches contain one word or an image that goes along with this main theme.
To create a mind map you will need a set of colored pencils or pens and a sheet of notebook paper.
Examples of Mind Maps for Kids
Mind Maps for Kids: Personal Goal
Let’s say your teenage child wants an iPod. You have told her she can have one if she comes up with some money to make the purchase. She says she doesn’t know how to do this, so you suggest creating a mind map. This is one way she might go about that task.
First, she would list her main goal – save enough money to buy an iPod – in the center of the page. You only one want central goal listed here, not several. If her goal is to buy the iPod, that is what should be in the middle box. Have her draw a photo of the iPod, so the visual is in her brain.
Next, she would think of one thing she could do that could help her reach her goal. She will write this idea down by branching off of the central idea, and she will use a different color of ink to do so. Her first idea as a way to save money for her new electronic might be to do extra chores around the house each week so she can earn more money. This idea might be written out in red ink, as in “Chores.”.Off of this main branch, she might have a variety of branches that list the different chores she could do, such as “Laundry” and “Dishes.” Have her draw pictures for these, as this will spark even more creativity in her thinking.
Then she might add a second main branch coming off of the central theme. This branch might say “Save.”She might write this idea down in purple ink. Off of this idea in smaller branches she would list things that she can do to ensure she isn’t spending her allowance money. For instance, stop buying new clothes may be an idea, so she may draw a shirt and put an X over it. Or she may write the word SHOPPING with an X through it.
A third thicker branch off the central theme might be to take on a part time job. The title may be job, and then smaller branches off of this might lead to ideas such as “Babysitting” and “Pets.” These ideas might be listed or drawn in yellow.
Mind Maps for Kids: Educational Goal
Let’s look at an idea for a smaller child who is in school and needs to write a report about Dogs. The central theme in the middle of the page would be the topic Dogs enclosed in a box or circle. Have your child draw a picture of a dog.
The first thicker branch extending away from Dogs, drawn in blue, might be Food. Then off of this idea, food, might be listed items such as ‘treats’ and ‘bones’.
Next, a thicker branch drawn in purple might be labeled Exercise. Smaller branches extending away from this idea might be labeled ‘walking’, ‘ball’, ‘fetch’, and ‘swimming’. Again, encourage your child to draw pictures of these ideas whenever possible.
Mind Maps for Kids: Behavioral Goal
While mind maps are often used for educational goals or brainstorming ways to complete a particular task, they could also be useful for identifying a behavioral goal. This could be done with a parent.
As an example, let’s say your nine year old has been losing her temper often. The main concept in the middle of the mind map may be “Anger.” You could then branch off of the main concept with a variety of multi-colored branches that list ways to control the temper, including ‘figure out when I’m going to lose my temper’, ‘things to do instead of losing my temper’, and ‘ways to avoid losing my temper’.
The smaller branches leading off of figuring out when I’m losing my temper might be ‘my heart rate goes up’ and ‘I feel hot in the face’. This could be represented with the word ‘heart’ or a picture of a heart. Your child might list things like ‘go to my room’ and ‘count to ten’ off of the branch named ‘things to do instead of losing my temper’. These could be represented with a drawing of her room or the number 10. Your child might list additional items under ‘ways to avoid losing my temper’ by noting that she tends to lose her temper right after school when she is hungry, so eating a snack first thing is important; using the word Snack would work, as would a picture of a pretzel.
Mind Maps for Kids: Tips to Remember
Although mind maps for kids are often thought of note taking strategies, they can be used for so many other reasons. The key tips to remember when mind mapping include:
- Use different colors to stimulate your brain.
- Use swirly branches instead of straight branches – get creative!
- List one word or draw an image for each item on the mind map. Images are great, because they let your child ‘see’ the concept.
- Be CREATIVE! The more creative your child is when developing a mind map, the more successful your child will be at remembering the concepts – and thinking of new ones in the process!