The question wasn't completely out of the blue as it might initially seem. We had on the Kansas City Royals baseball game in the background while we were playing with cars. I told him that a Royal as someone who wasn't very good at baseball and you had to go Kansas City if didn't want to go to jail.
That's not true at all. I actually told him that a Royal was someone like a King or a Queen or a Prince. I then asked him if he knew were Kansas City was. Like most four-year olds, he guessed Kansas. I had the unenviable task of telling him that although his guess made perfect sense, Kansas City was actually in Missouri.
"WHAT?!?" he exclaimed.
"It's true I told him. Let's look on a map."
So we did and, sure enough, the Kansas City Royals play in Kansas City, Missouri.
"But Oklahoma City is in Oklahoma," he said confidently.
"Exactly," I told him.
While I'm still not sure sports is the great social teacher it often gets credit for (you know, teamwork, perseverance, all the stuff youth leagues preach in an attempt to justify their fees when a neighborhood baseball game with dads umpiring would work just as well), I do know it's a great teacher of math, geography and vocabulary, among others.
Like most young boys, my son was fascinated with race cars. He's got his little cars and loves to drive them, arrange them, build his blocks in such a way he can park them all inside. So naturally, I'd turn on the NASCAR race and let him watch for a bit. Obviously, he doesn't have the attention to watch the whole thing. Most people I know who say they "watch" NASCAR actually mean they turn on the race to take a nap to and wake up for the end. But what he does have is a fascination with numbers. So instead of just watching, I'd ask questions.
"What number car is winning?" or "Is 48 higher or lower than 24?" It was also great for understanding ordinal numbers (i.e. what place is Number 5 in?) As he got older, I've begun asking him to add or subtract some of the lower-numbered cars to work on those skills.
Whenever we watch a baseball game, I try to ask who's playing, what's the score, and more recently, where they are playing. He usually knows the first two (both city name and team name), bu
We did the same thing for the London Olympics, for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil and numerous other events.
We've also learned and looked up pictures several words, including the aforementioned Royals, Seahawks, Rangers, and Marlins among others. Fortunately, he hasn't asked me to explain what a Redskin is yet. I'm not looking forward to explaining why using a racial slur is acceptable. For now I just try to refer to them as Washington.
We probably watch more televised sports than we should with him being so young, but I justify it to myself by saying it's a teaching tool. And when he can tell me Los Angeles is in California outside of the context of a baseball game, I know the info is sinking in.