Abstract Eight- and 12-year-old children were escorted on their first walk across a university campus and were instructed to pay attention to designated landmarks at intersections. Some of these landmarks were then surreptitiously moved prior to the child's return trip. Younger children were more likely than older children to judge that they were off the original route when they were at the intersections with changed landmarks. Younger children were also less likely than older children to know the direction to return at those intersections. Although children of both age groups gave similar numbers of reports of use of the designated landmarks, older children more often than younger children reported using stable and distant landmarks in addition to the designated landmarks. The results are used to describe the development of encoding of landmarks for way finding.