Zap History Boredom – 8 Ways to Captivate Your Kids

Are you looking for ways to make history come alive for your children?  Here are some easy ways to turn history lessons from dull to dynamic

  1. Make Costumes - Invite your children to choose characters or occupations from the historic time you are studying.  Ask them to make costumes representing the style of clothing the people wore.  Suggest resources they can explore to help them learn more about what people wore. Why do they think their character dressed a certain way?  How is it different from the way people dress today?  Discuss options for making the costumes, encouraging students to use things they can find at home or make easily.  Choose a dress-up day to present their characters and answer questions about the costumes. If you are unable to make a costume, look at pictures or books to describe the period dress.
  2. Have a Puppet Show - Make puppets of historic figures from time period you are studying. Children can act out key events in the lives of the characters they create. They can also make up their own stories about the time period, thinking about how the character may have responded to a situation that occurred during the time they lived.  Or they can bring the person to life in today’s world and have them interact with modern society.  What would surprise the historical person if they spent a day in today’s world?
  3. Interview Historic People - Ask children to choose their favorite historical person to represent and guide them as they research the person’s life. Like a news reporter, conduct “interviews” with each historic figure, asking details about their life, the time in which they lived, the problems they faced, etc.  To help the children be prepared to answer questions from the perspective of their favorite historical person, the children can either make up a list of questions that they would like to be asked, or you can provide them with an outline of questions you will ask.
  4. Act out Historical Events - Children love drama and acting out events, and this is a great way to immerse them in history. They can act out real events from history, or they can make up their own play by imagining imagine how people from history may have interacted with each other. What was a typical day like for them?  What was different about their lives as compared to the way we live today?  While costumes and props will make the plays more interesting, children can present the plays without costumes.  If you don’t use costumes, have each child wear a name tag that clearly identifies them so the audience can understand who the child is representing.
  5. Bring out the Maps - Locate countries, regions, cities, or villages that are related to the person you are studying (birth city, where they lived throughout their life, location of death, etc.).  Using a reproducible map, trace the movement of individuals who traveled widely and locate their travel paths. Discuss how they traveled (on foot, by horse, on a ship, etc.), and talk about how long it took them to get from place to place.  Show how country borders may have changed during the person’s life and discuss how those changes may have had an impact on them.
  6. Make a Game of Dates - When children study events and connect them with specific dates in history, it may be helpful to examine the different calendars used throughout the ages and those that are still in use today, including the Chinese, Christian, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, and Persian calendars. By looking at calendars that are no longer in use, such as the ancient Egyptian and Babylonian, Mayan, Roman, and French Revolutionary calendars, students can explore different worlds and relate them to what they are studying. This approach adds a different dimension to straight date memorization.
  7. Read, Read, Read! - Bring history to life by reading stories, fairy tales, poems, novels, and classic literature of the time period you are studying.  Read biographies of famous people. This can be done with a read-aloud time (with you or the children taking turns reading aloud), or by making daily reading assignments and discussing them as a group.  You can also provide a book list (including historical fiction and graphic novels) so children can choose books that interest them.
  8. Combine Art with History - Add a creative dimension to your study of history by using art to make history lessons memorable.  Children can color or paint portraits of famous people and the places they lived, or they can create paper dolls, clay sculptures, etc. These creations may be displayed or collected and used in a timeline as your study progresses. In addition to creating your own art, look at the relevant art history from the time period you are studying to help children understand the skills and values of the people who lived during that time.

Cathy Diez-Luckie, publisher at Figures In Motion, brings the study of science and history alive with engaging hands-on activities for children. Her art has appeared nationally and internationally in numerous illustration reference books, children’s books, and magazines. She is also the author and illustrator of the awarding winning children’s activity book Famous Figures of Ancient Times, Movable Paper Figures to Cut, Color, and Assemble. Trained at the Toledo Museum of Art and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Cathy also holds a graduate degree from Stanford University. She and her husband Jeff live in Oakland, California and homeschool their three children.

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