Sometimes we do not attach much importance to teaching children the continents, but they can become their first approach to the world where they live. Undoubtedly, it is an excellent educational tool since through the continents children can discover how the world is distributed, where the country in which they were born is located and what the neighboring territories are.
However, beyond their geographical interest, getting to know the continents is also a good way for children to discover the different cultures, the history of each region and some of the most typical curiosities of each area. To make your work easier, at Infant Stage we explain what continents are, how many there are and some of their main characteristics.
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What is meant by continent?
Did you know that the term continent comes from the Latin for “continent” and means “to hold together”? Based on its etymology, geographers define it as a large expanse of land on the surface of the globe, separated by the oceans and determined by geographical accidents. In other words, it is a large land mass that can be distinguished on a large scale.
It is worth noting that, although continents often tend to be confused with tectonic plates, they are actually different concepts. The plates are a geological concept that refers to a fragment of the lithosphere, which is nothing more than the rocky envelope of the terrestrial globe. The difference is that the plates originate at a much deeper point in the Earth’s structure while the continents form in a higher layer.
In fact, sometimes plates and continents coincide, but not always. There are merely continental plates, but also oceanic plates and others that include a continental and an oceanic part. In addition, beyond its geographical consideration in the classification of the continents, sociopolitical and historical aspects are also taken into account, as in the case of the European continent.
How many continents are there in the world? The main continental models
Currently there is not a single continental model but several. The differentiation between these models varies not only in the number of continents that are recognized but also in their conceptualization. These are the main models of continents that are handled throughout the world.
- 4 continent model. In this model , the continents are understood as a continuous land area, where there are no geographical barriers such as the Panama Canal or the Suez Canal. According to this conception, Europe, Asia and Africa should be part of a single continent, called Afroeurasia or Eurafrasia. Therefore, there would only be 4 continents: Afroeurasia, America, Oceania and Antarctica.
- Model of 5 continents. It is one of the most widespread continental models, in fact, it is the one used by the UN and the one that is represented in the rings of the emblem of the Olympic Games. According to this approach, only the inhabited continents are taken into account, so there would only be five continents: America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania.
- 6 continent model. There are two models that accept the existence of six continents in the world. It is the most widespread in Latin countries such as Spain , Italy and Portugal, it includes both inhabited and uninhabited continents: America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania and Antarctica. The other, popular in Eastern Europe and Japan, relates the continents to the continental tectonic plates, meaning that Europe and Asia form a single continent called Eurasia and that America is divided into two continents, North and South. In this way, it includes the following continents: North America, South America, Eurasia, Africa, Eurasia, Oceania and Antarctica.
- Model of 7 continents. This is the conventional model used in English-speaking countries, China, and international organizations such as FIFA. According to the model, Oceania is replaced by the Australian continent and Central America is included within the North American continent. In this way, the model includes the following continents: North America, South America, Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceania or Australia and Antarctica.
Some facts and curiosities about the continents
Regardless of the number of continents that exist in the world, there are interesting facts that children will appreciate knowing, for example: which is the largest continent or the most populous. These are some curious and practical details about the continents recognized in Spain.
The origin of the name of this continent is not entirely clear. Some consider that it comes from a Phoenician princess of Greek mythology while others say that it arises from the combination of some terms in Greek. The “Old World” or “Old Continent” as it is also known, is the cradle of Western culture and the generator of great changes worldwide such as the Renaissance Movement and the Industrial Revolution. With an area of 10,530,751 square kilometers, it is the second smallest continent with 2% of the world’s surface and about 6.8% of the land surface, and home to 743 million people.
Did you know that, although the name of Africa is inspired by a tribe in the region, it actually comes from Latin? The name of this continent is a combination of the terms “Afri”, which refers to the tribe of the same name of Berber origin, and “ica”, a suffix used to relate a country to its inhabitants. It is believed that this continent, which today has about 1,320 million inhabitants, is the cradle of humanity, the place where homo sapiens originated before expanding to the rest of the continents. With an area of 30,221,535 square kilometers that represents 20.4% of the emerged land, it is the third largest continent in the world.
Also known as “New World” or “New Continent”, the American continent owes its name to the Italian explorer Américo Vespucio, who joined in the first voyages of discovery. With an area of more than 43,316,000 square kilometers, it is the second largest continent on the planet, covering 8% of the total surface of the world and 28.4% of the emerged land. The continent has a population that amounts to more than 970 million people, which is why it concentrates about 12.5% of the world’s population.
It is the largest and most populous continent on Earth. With an area of 44,541,138 square kilometers, it represents 8.7% of the earth’s surface and 30% of the emerged land. Currently home to 4.598 million people, Asia saw the birth of many of the world’s earliest civilizations such as Mesopotamian, Indian and Chinese. Its name is believed to come from the Greek civilization, derived from the term “Aswia” and “Assuwa”, although for Greek mythology Asia was an Oceanid, the wife of Prometheus.
Conrad Malte-Brun coined the French term “Océanie” to name this continent in 1812. Derived from the Latin word “Oceanus”, it probably owes its origin to Oceanus, the Titan son of Uranus and Gaia in Greek mythology, although it can also refer to the fact that the continent is surrounded and bounded exclusively by oceans. With an area of 8,525,989 square kilometers, Oceania is the smallest continent in terms of land area and the second least populated after Antarctica, as it is home to only 41 million people.
The name of this continent comes from the romanized version of the Greek term “antarktiké”, which means “opposite the Arctic” or “opposite the north”. Also known as Antarctica, it is the southernmost continent on the planet since it is located completely in the southern hemisphere, containing the geographic south pole. With an area of 14,000,000 square kilometers, it is the fourth largest continent, although about 98% of its surface is covered with ice. Because of this, only between 1,000 and 5,000 people live temporarily in Antarctica, many of whom are scientists and explorers.
3 maps of the continents to print
There is no better way to teach children about the continents than through maps. In this way, not only will they be able to get a clearer idea of their surface, but they will also learn to locate them and be able to identify the countries they include. Here are three maps of continents that can be very useful to you.
1. Map of 6 continents
With this map of 6 continents, children will learn to locate them on the earth’s surface and will be able to define their geographical limits. By containing the delimitations of the countries, they will also be able to exercise their knowledge of geography and identify the countries that belong to each continent. It is worth noting that as the continents are differentiated by colors they are easier to identify.
2. Map of 6 dumb continents
This blank map can become an excellent tool for children to exercise their knowledge of the continents. Being differentiated by colors, it is very easy to identify the different continents. However, to make it easier for the little ones and stimulate their spatial skills, you can print the map so that they can manipulate it and write their names.
3. Map of the representative animals of each continent
The map represents the most typical animals of each continent, without a doubt, a fun and different way for children to learn to recognize them and learn a little more about natural life. In this way, they will not only be able to identify the continents but also identify the fauna that inhabits their territory.