Making a Map to Reduce Anxiety

Last week, I discussed how children with anxiety often struggle with changes in their routines, especially through vacations and when moving. Today, I’m going to show you how to make an interactive map, a project to help children who struggle with travel anxiety to take ownership of their travels. Creating a project like this can help children feel less helpless and more like they understand what’s going on when their environments change.

Final Project

The great thing about doing a project like this is that it can be ongoing. It can be a family project (like the one I’m going to show you), or each child in your family can have his or her own. The “psychology” behind it is that you can give your child visual proof that traveling is good. You can make it a goal for your family or your child to visit as many places as possible. Believe me, as someone with diagnosed OCD tendencies, there’s nothing that makes me feel better than working toward finishing a project or reaching for a goal.

In order for this to work, however, it’s important to discuss with your child why each place you go to is special. You can do this by linking the places you visit to subjects your child enjoys, like history, science, different aspects of culture, or the simple love of fun. If you make traveling and experiencing new places enjoyable, putting it in a positive light, you can really help your child make personal connections with the world around her.

I found the craft portion of this project, where you print a photo on tissue paper and Modge Podge it to a canvas, on a Youtube video by shimmybeancreations. Making the project into a map, however, is something I designed. The length of time this project will take will depend largely on the size of your canvas and the detail you put into it. This particular canvas map took me three days, but as you can see, it’s quite detailed, and I learned a lot of things the hard way. If you want to simplify things (for example, making the continental US one map that you print once instead of printing 48 states separately), you can do it much more quickly.

Just remember, your willingness to invest in your children’s peace of mind is something that can change the way they see the world. You can help make or break their enthusiasm for travel, exploration, and learning. This map won’t solve all of your anxious child’s traveling fears, but it can help him begin to own his travels and see them in a positive light.

Making the Map

You can do this with just one state, territory, region, an entire country, or the whole world. In the short amount of time my husband’s been in the military, we traveled our fair share of the country. Because of that, I decided to do a canvas map of the continental US. Whenever we start to travel (especially if we move) outside of the US, I’ll be making additions to our wall decor.

So here’s what you’ll need.

Note: After using a mobile coupon for Hobby Lobby, this project cost me less than $20. If you compare that with the cost of a professional art piece of comparable size, you’ll find this is so much cheaper. Your main investment in this project will be time, depending on how detailed you make it.



A canvas of your choice size

Modge Podge

A cheap sponge brush, the kind you’d use for touch up jobs when painting a wall

Colored Tissue Paper

Whatever colors of tissue paper you want. Because I was doing the whole continental US, I decided to use multiple paper colors. (I’ll explain how that works later.) You, however, can just choose one if that’s what you want.


Inkjet Printer


1. Decide what area you want to make a map of.

2. Visit sites like where they have free state outlines. Choose what state(s) you’d like to feature in your map.

Blank Outline Maps

Now, you can do these states/countries/whatever in whatever colors you want.

You’re going to print your land pieces on the tissue paper. Before you print, however, you’ll need to size your states. You can do this using whatever software you like, whether you’re a Microsoft Word person like me, or if you like to use more sophisticated software, or if you just use the free “Paint” software that comes on PCs.

When you’ve sized your states up on your computer to where you think they’ll fit well on your canvas, you’re nearly ready to print. Nearly.

Before you do that, however, it’s helpful to iron the tissue paper you’re using. Don’t use any sort of steam or mist, or you’ll damage the paper. Just gently press along the paper. If you look at my picture below, you’ll see the difference between the side of the paper that’s ironed and the side that’s not.


After this, you’ll carefully cut rectangles of tissue paper that are just larger than regular printer paper sheets. You’ll tape the the tissue paper onto the printer sheet (shiny side out). You’ll want to make sure you don’t leave any corners sticking up. They can cause nasty printer jams. This is the back of one of my sheets, where I taped all the sides and corners down.

Stretched Tissue Paper

You’ll place each paper in the printer one at a time (depending on how many pieces of tissue paper you’ll be using). I had lots of sheets, as I did 48 states. To mix up the colors, I used Microsoft Word to put several states per page. That meant I could get multiple states on each sheet and do mutiple sets of colored states.

When I finished printing, I outlined each state border with black Sharpie just because I like how it made the lines thicker. You really don’t have to, though.

Sharpie Shapes

Next, you’ll cut out the states. (You can keep the printer paper versions if you want for something else or toss them.)

Cutting Out Shapes

Next, you’ll want to lay your tissue pieces out in whatever order or pattern you want them in. This allows you to make sure they’ll fit on your canvas before you actually Modge Podge them on. Because they’re not coming off after that. Believe me.

Rough Draft Country

This is where everything starts to come together. Modge Podge the area you want each state to go on. Carefully, lay the state down on the Modge Podge while it’s still wet. (Believe me, it dries fast!). Once you’ve got it down, press it to get the wrinkles and bubbles out. Then Modge Podge over the state again to seal it in.

Modge Podge

Don’t worry about the white of the Modge Podge. It’ll dry clearly. (Just be careful that you don’t overdo it on the Modge Podge. The tissue paper will tear if you are too rough or make it too wet. A once or twice over should be good.)

Once you’ve got your whole project done, it’ll help it last longer if you give everything one more gentle coat of Modge Podge. It’s not absolutely necessary though. Here’s what mine looked like when I started to go over it again a second time. (You can see the shiny Modge Podge.)

Modge Podge II

Once all of your Modge Podge has dried, you can title your map and make the map key. This is fun because you totally personalize it. I wrote everything with Sharpie. You can do this using different colored sharpies. (For example, you could have a different color representing different stages in life, or different family members.) I gave us black dots for the regular cities we’ve visted, and I made stars for the military installations we’ve been to as a family.


You’re just about finished! Now just go back and write down the places you’ve visited! Here’s an example from part of our map.

Close Up

And here’s my final project! It’s up in our living room for all of our visitors to see. When we have kids, we’ll be using it for them to track the family progress on. I might even add another color to signify the places we’ve gone with our kids in tow so they know where they’ve been. Or who knows? They might want to make their own maps.

Final Project

All In All

The great thing about a project like this is that it’s cumulative. It never has to end. If you care for it during the moves, something like this should last for a long time. It’s a way to show your kids that their travels are something to be proud of. They can look back one day and think, “Hey, I went to that place once!” when they discuss it in a history class. It’s something they can be proud of. For kids like the ones I work with (mostly military), having a family heritage tracker can be really important. It can help give them a sense of identity.

For kids with anxiety, you can use it as a reminder to show them that good things have come from their travels. When they’re nervous about their changing schedules because of vacations or moves, you can point to different places and say, “Remember when you had so much fun when we went there?” Again, the attitude of parents and their willingness to invest in their children’s peace of mind when it comes to travel can make a world of difference for children who struggle with change

What tools or techniques have you used to reduce travel anxiety, either with yourself or someoe else? Share in the Comment Box below!

Posted under: Anxiety, The Military Kid

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