I wanted to let my children, who live in a dense, walkable neighborhood in Berlin, express themselves through maps.

I was inspired by the work of Bruce Appleyard, a researcher who asked children to draw maps of their daily lives. He observed two conclusions1:

  1. Children who primarily walk can accurately draw their neighborhood’s geography. Children who are usually driven perceive the world, rather, as disconnected places.
  2. In neighborhoods with fewer cars, children drew more landmarks and features such as trees. Conversely, areas with more cars were missing in detail.

With this in mind, I designed a mapping exercise for my 2- and 4-year-old children. They’ve already shown signs of being able to navigate the immediate neighborhood. It occurred to me that, for them, sidewalks are the most important part. To a four-year-old, even a quiet street is a formidable barrier. So, I wanted to find a way to render a map with oversized sidewalks and miniscule streets.

Enter OpenStreetMaps and a lovely piece of software called Maperitive. Maperitive lets you render OSM data to SVG, using a sophisticated styling language. I was able to select exactly the type of roads I wanted, and render them with a narrow “car space” and large “people space”. Then, I could produce a SVG and A2 PDF, which the local copy shop happily printed.

I intentionally omitted many features, with the intention of letting the kids fill them in. For example, we’ll work on drawing in transit lines ourselves. Playgrounds are only lightly highlited; we will label them together.

And, of course, I want to take the map with us as we navigate our neighborhood. Adventure awaits!

The maperitive style, if you’d like to reproduce this yourself:

		park: leisure=park AND NOT landuse=cemetery AND NOT access=private
        // needed because one playground is not listed as access=yes
        // TODO: Fix OSM data :-)
		park: leisure=playground AND (access=yes OR name=Schneckenspielplatz)

		str: @isOneOf(highway,primary,residential,secondary,tertiary,living_street) OR (highway=footway AND bicycle=yes)

	map-background-color	: #D1D1D1
	map-background-opacity	: 1
	map-sea-color : #99B3CC
	map.rendering.lflp.min-buffer-space : 5
	map.rendering.lflp.max-allowed-corner-angle : 40

			fill-hatch: vertical
			fill-hatch-color: white
			line-style: none
			line-width: 3
			line-color: white
			min-zoom: 10
			line-width: 50
			line-color: #FFFFFE
			line-end-cap: round
			line-width: 3

And, if you’re just getting started with Maperitive, here is the script to download and render the data

move-pos x=13.425 y=52.546
zoom 15.45
set-geo-bounds 13.411209322245,52.5378511105578,13.431090677755,52.5549484720452
download-osm-overpass bounds=13.411209322245,52.5378511105578,13.431090677755,52.5549484720452
save-source source.osm


use-ruleset location=KidMaps.mrules
load-source source.osm
zoom 15.45 // YMMV
set-paper type=A2 orientation=portrait margins=5,5,5,5
set-geo-bounds 13.4114497255764,52.5379973325601,13.4308502744236,52.5548023065046
set-print-bounds-paper map-scale=3200

export-svg compatibility=inkscape file=out.svg

Finally, convert to a PDF with Inkscape and you’re good to go!

  1. You can find the study here or here ↩︎