Our local, most favorite pizza shop, Pizza X, gave us two small pizza boxes free for the asking, and pizza boxes are PERFECT for salt dough maps. They're cardboard, so they can withstand the low oven temperatures for drying the salt dough, they're sturdy, so they can withstand the wet dough itself, you can paint them, they have a lid, they're stackable, and you can use the extra surface of that inside lid for those miniature lapbook books that are all the craze right now.
I printed and cut out a map of Egypt on 8.5"x11" paper--it was just a tad small for the pizza box, so we were able to add the context of the surrounding area. If we ever wanted to use a bigger map in a bigger pizza box, I'd print the map on an overhead transparency and let the girls trace it directly onto the bottom of the box. As it is, the girls glued their cut-out map directly to the bottom of the box, painted the surrounding areas (we're going to do that again when we paint the salt dough, on account of both girls appear to have forgotten the Mediterranean Sea!), and then pressed the salt dough down onto the cut-out map:
Don't worry--there was also ample time set aside for the making of long-legged ballerinas from the extra salt dough:
And then they dance:
The girls used maps to place the Nile River and Nile River Delta:
You can put a lot of relief detail into the salt dough, and Willow sculpted in the elevation change from the Upper Nile to the Lower Nile, and also added in a couple of pyramids and a Sphinx:
If you want to do flags and labels, you can stick toothpicks into the right parts as you're sculpting the salt dough. They'll dry firmly in place, and you can make and glue on the paper labels later. I considered this, and also considered having the girls model tiny pyramids and monuments from FIMO to glue on later...but, eh. The salt dough was engaging enough as-is, and the girls learned a LOT about the Nile from it. Later we might put together a giant paper map of Ancient Egypt (Megamaps will let you print maps that are over six feet long!) and label that more elaborately with all the pyramids and such, Kushites and what-have-you).
Next, we oven-dry the salt dough, and then we paint!