And now for something completely different...i.e. no rants in this post.
I just thought I'd share some sources for learning about the States and an instance of natural learning; the following took place over a couple of months.
To read more, click on the Xs
I read aloud to my DD a lot. As a result, I sometimes get bored of some of the picture books or juvenile readers we read, so I start looking for themes or books that interest me. One book that interested me was The Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller. DD had been playing with a wooden puzzle that is a map of the United States, so she was familiar with the concept of the States and I thought she might enjoy the book, but really, I wanted to read the book myself! The book is a pretty cute story of how the states get bored of their locations and decide to switch places with each other. Perhaps its a bit old for a 4 year old, but you never know what they'll pick up. My DD enjoys this book and it was a good starting point to learn about the states on a very topical level -- what they are and where they're located. Its great for me, too, as an East coast dweller all my life, I used to get a bit confused about the States in the heartland.
Another easy way to learn about the states is to use USA map placemats. Every morning DD chooses the stateon which to place her vitamin pill. We also use this map to point out all the different places where her various friends have moved :-(
A song I learned in elementary school was Fifty Nifty United States (an audio clip is probably available off the internet). In this song, one sings the names of all the states in alphabetical order -- pretty handy. I sang this often to my 4 year old. She's an early reader, so I typed up a list of the states which she looked at whenever she felt like it, it was just strewn around the house (those who know me, know that my house is quite strewn). She learned the song and can name all the States (or at least, sing them all). Hey, why not, she knows the words to lots of ABBA songs, so she might as well learn something useful. Of course, who am I to say that "money, money, money, always sunny, in the rich man's world" is not useful?
One set of books that looks like a good source to learn more about the States individually is published by Sleeping Bear Press. There are lots of books based on the alphabet, such as A is for America, an American Alphabet; L is for Lone Star, A Texas Alphabet; M is for Maple Syrup, A Vermont Alphabet. They don't have a book for every state yet, but it looks like they're working on it. The authors for the various books differ, but the Dewey decimal number is J 977.4. The books have poems that go through the alphabet, noting features of the state, history, and famous people. It seems like a great way to learn some geography and history. In addition to the simple poems, there is additional information on the sidebar of each page. I think my DD is too young for them, but I like them.
Finally, who can ignore the State quarters? My mom bought us lots of books and maps for collecting them before either of my children were even born (yes, she was really ready to be a grandmother). Its fun to look at the different designs and find new ones in pocket change and it just reinforces the learning. Fun for the whole family.