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How to Teach Kids History

Updated on August 26, 2012

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My daughters using pioneer tools in bonnetsMy oldest daughter's recreation of Vincent Van Gogh's 1889 "The Starry Night"Colored illustration from our study of Ben FranklinMy younger daughter acting the part of PocahontasMy daughters using a water pump as part of our study of pioneer life
My daughters using pioneer tools in bonnets
My daughters using pioneer tools in bonnets | Source
My oldest daughter's recreation of Vincent Van Gogh's 1889 "The Starry Night"
My oldest daughter's recreation of Vincent Van Gogh's 1889 "The Starry Night" | Source
Colored illustration from our study of Ben Franklin
Colored illustration from our study of Ben Franklin | Source
My younger daughter acting the part of Pocahontas
My younger daughter acting the part of Pocahontas | Source
My daughters using a water pump as part of our study of pioneer life
My daughters using a water pump as part of our study of pioneer life | Source

History, while important, can be a very dull subject - particularly for the young. Myriads of dates relating to people and wars that seem totally unrelated to a child's life both make it difficult to teach. However, these are not reasons that require history be un-fun or un-engaging. Here are two simple ways to make history real and engaging while still conveying the important facts and dates.

10 Ways to Make History Engaging

To further aid in engaging your child consider some of the following options:

  1. Buy, rent or make period costumes so that your child can dress the part and further immerse herself in the history. Seeing the costumes also helps cement the idea that this is more than just a fun story but is something that actually happened.
  2. Look up recipies from the period or region you are studying. Then cook and eat the food with your child. Again this will help make the information more than just a story.
  3. Choose one of the major events from the biography and act it out. Whether or not you use costumes, acting out the event will help your child remember what actually happened.
  4. Color illustration of the historical person's life. You can look for history coloring pages or have your child create her own illustrations based on what you have read to her.
  5. If possible visit the places that the person you are studying has actually been. Again this will make the story real for your child. If an actual visit isn't possible consider a virtual visit, while not as powerful as an actual visit it is often more practical.
  6. Help your child find and mark the major events on a map. While it takes time for your children to truly understand maps frequent exposure will aid understanding.
  7. If the biography you are studying mentions special or specific tools of the period consider replicating those tools so that your child can try them as well. Again this will make the history real for your child.
  8. If appropriate look at and recreate art from the time period. This will show your child the different ways people have of looking at the world as well as exposing them to major artists.
  9. If appropriate listen to music from the period or region and consider learning dances from that time or place. This will also expose your child to the different ways people have of looking at the world.
  10. If you child is a little older have him imagine interviewing the person. What questions would he like to ask? How does he think the person being studied might answer? If you child is only old enough to come up with questions, provide him with possible answers explaining why you think each answer likely.

Teach History through Biographies

First, find a way to make the material relatable to your child. Biographies are one of the easiest approaches. Rather than a series of event about people your child doesn't know you have a story about a single person and the dramatic event he or she lived through. The information is more approachable because your child can now see it through the eyes of the person you are reading about. Moreover, biographies come at a variety of reading levels, so that even the very young can enjoy learning about historical figures.

Teaching History with a Timeline

Secondly, you need to find an interesting and engaging way to relay all the dates your child should be learning. This can be accomplished through the expedience of a timeline. But don't just create a timeline, get your child involved. Post a dateline around your classroom or study area. Then as each new person is studied add his or her information to the timeline.

To keep your child engaged and remind her of what she has previously learned use some of the engaging activities in the timeline. For example, if you dressed in period costumes or played out some of the historical events take photos and add them to the timeline. If your child created an illustration of an event or recreated artwork from a time period studied add that to the timeline. As your child studies and learns you will not only be creating an excellent learning tool but also a log of the fun in learning that you experienced together.

Creating Your Own History Book

When the year is over I highly recommend transferring your timeline to a scrapbook which you can enjoy for years to come. Moreover, the scrapbook itself becomes a great learning tool that you can share with others - your very own history book.

Transferring the items to a scrapbook does not have to be difficult. If you choose a scrapbook that allows you to add pages you can even easily expand on your history book each year.

  1. Create a simple title page with a title including the dates studied and the names of all participants as authors, that is your name and the names of all the children that contributed to the timeline. For example "History Timeline 1492 to 1787 created by me and my daughters" Or you can get more creative with your title. For example "American History" or "Important Figures in American History".
  2. Then with each photo, drawing or map from your timeline include a date label and a brief description. The descriptions should include the historical data as well as artistic information. For example, "This is a photo of my oldest daughter's reenacting Columbus' famous voyage to discover an alternate route to India, which lead to the discovery of America. The reenactment took place on August 3, 2012 at our Sumner home." The date label should be prominent.
  3. Create a separate page for each date, especially if you are planning to add to the book. Otherwise the pages can become crowded and confusing.

After all the art, photos and maps are mounted and labeled in the scrapbook you will have everything you need to enjoy the scrapbook for it's memories or it's historical information.

How do you remember your history studies?

Did you enjoy studying history as a child?

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    • techhound profile image


      6 years ago

      For me, history classes were a very long time ago so there is a lot that is still fuzzy. This is a great hubpage though. You give some awesome ideas.


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