Learn European geography.

My husband, the son of a diplomat, believes putting names to places on maps is a way to give children a sense of their place in the world. We have lots of maps and globes in our house and the kids are slowly developing an appreciation for using maps to suss out the shape of the world. The easiest way to learn about places on a map is to visit in person, but what if you haven’t had the chance to visit yet? My kids haven’t been to Europe, so Europe as a place exists in their minds as a vague concept—lots of little countries with strange names. Over the years the kids picked up some of the basics about the continent through osmosis, movies, and Richard Scarry, but this summer, in preparation for a winter trip across Europe, my daughter resolved to learn the names of every country there.

We found Toporopa, a free and cleanly designed site that provides simple memorization games for the all the countries of Europe as well as games for the rivers, mountains, islands, and even volcanos of Europe. The games are pure memorization without much fuss or reward, but they worked for my self-motivated daughter who now likes to challenge adults to name the countries of Europe. She always wins. My husband couldn’t be more proud.