Our homeschool group's history/geography fair was this week which triggered a pinning blitz for me on pinterest. That netted some great ideas which tied in perfectly with the littles' geography studies.
The first was our take on the Me on the Map project I saw several places. (based on this book) The children cut their own circles from old cereal boxes so they are a little wonky but really sturdy. They are going to make awesome manipulatives for some time.
Konos has a similar project but they used envelopes in graduated sizes which fit inside one another. A flip book works too. Any way you choose to do it you begin with a picture of the child and his home then add layers (pages, larger envelopes etc) of the following: his street, city, state/province, country, continent, world.
Then because I tend to overshoot they were so darn cute we made a set of continent cookies. Actually this project was spearheaded by Moira and Aidan and was their contribution to the fair.
The hardest part (I mean of course the hardest part aside from finding the project and deciding to make it the day of the fair. ; )) ended up being finding a set of continent templates that were the right size but still sorta to scale. Our world puzzle was too large. We ended up using maps from montessorimaterials.org. Aidan cut them and used them as a guide to cut the cookie dough. (recipe here)
They cookies held their shape well so the outlines stayed fairly true. We iced them in traditional Montessori colors and used this recipe which dried nice and glossy and firm. They were a big hit and the kids were proud of themselves.
You can totally teach geography without these. Totally. But I think some version of the Me on the Map project is really worth the time to do to help give more concrete understanding of what are often really abstract concepts of place and scale.