. History is of utmost importance for us all to learn as the many mistakes that were made in the past can be avoided in the future. Learning both the good and bad events of the past can be very important and learning history from a young age can help really build an appreciation for it. Here are some of the ways we can use to teach children about our history.
1. By buying books
One of the best ways to learn about history is from books. There are many books that teach history aimed specifically at kids. Ideal books are written in simple language and make it easy and fun for them to understand. This helps a kid learn both about history and improve his or her reading at the same time. We like the books produced to date by Kundakids.
2. By roleplaying
Younger kids love roleplaying, and this can be an interesting way to teach children history. They could roleplay as Kings, as Queens or maybe even as prehistoric animals like dinosaurs. Roleplaying can be a fun way to teach kids a few facts about history, while also being fun at the same time
3. By letter writing
Letter writing is another great way to teach children history. You can ask your kids to imagine what great historical figures of the past must have gone through and ask to write a letter from their viewpoint. This teaches them about emotions and problem solving. Also, letters have always been a great source of history and you can explain the historical importance of writing as a form of communication. One such example is of the Amarna letters, a series of correspondence between Egyptian leaders, foreign rulers and their diplomatic administrators. The Amarna letters contain a lot of information about the customs, culture and events of the time, and the reign of the Egyptian Kings.
4. By art
Children can be taught history via the use of art. They can be encouraged to make sculptures from found materials of various historical figures. They could also be encouraged to sketch art or to make water colour paintings representing historical figures or scenes. The kingdom of Benin in modern Nigeria did not have writing but was able to document its history through Bronze sculptures and the composition of those types of art pieces. Pharaonic Egypt also left an impressive artwork capturing various aspects of their civilization. More modern history can be taught by showing children various pictures or photographs taken of historical events.
Benin art at the British Museum. Image courtesy of: Son of Groucho/Flickr
5. By the use of history apps
History can be taught via the use of various apps. One such app is the History for Kids app, which is an interactive app that allows your kid to travel back in an interactive timeline that is excellent for engaging a kid’s attention and teaching them history. This can be very useful, as it can be a fun timeline for your child to explore.
6. By visiting places
Another way to teach children history can be to visit many different places that have some historical significance. These could be places relating to a person, places holding family significance, or places of local, national, or international significance. Visiting these places would pique a child’s interest and encourage them to learn more about history.
Another fun way to get a child involved in history is encouraging them to create timelines about what happened to them during a past hour, and working it up to longer timeframes like a day, month or a year. You can then introduce them to timelines about your country, region, continent or humanity. The child will learn about time works, that the concept of weeks, months, or years is functional, cultural, changing and serves humans in conducting business, holding religious ceremonies and setting the dates for social events.
8. Family Trees
Family trees can be a fun way for a child to learn about your family history. Help your child create a family tree with images and drawings of your family and create interest in how family trees work. Point out the many family trees in history of various families that have been important.
The use of calendars can help a child develop an interest in history. You can maintain a linear calendar along the wall to mark special dates and occasions, holidays and even the weather, pointing out the months in which we have the different seasons. You can then introduce many different calendars such as stellar calendars, solar calendars, lunar calendars, and Regnal years, explaining these concepts to your child who will be able to understand them.
Birthdays can also be a fun way to teach children history. You can help your child track the birthdays of their close friends, and in this way introduce the concept of tracking the birth dates of historical figures. You can also encourage your child and tell him about the various historical figures that share his birthday. These can be inspiring to a child and encourage them to learn more about these historical figures and what they did.
You can use anniversaries to help a child learn about or remember their grandparents or great grandparents. You can also tell them about the famous people who contributed to your country or the world on their anniversaries.
12. Seasons and months
You can introduce seasons and months with pictures representing the four seasons or the twelve months. You can then also connect the weather to the seasons to teach a child about the concept and climate change. You can compare four season regions of the world to two season regions of the world as not every part of the world experiences spring and winter. In Africa, the climate in the Sahara changes over a 26,000-year cycle due to the precession of the earth between wet and super dry. Once children understand the seasons, you can introduce them to ideas that few people on earth know such as the uniqueness and diversity of Africa’s many climes (meaning local climate patterns).
You can also encourage a child to write different journals, and explain to them how journals have been used throughout history to chronicle various events and remember historical evidences. Mention some important journals like the Travels by Ibn Battuta where his many adventures all around the world are depicted or the Acts of Apostles. Throughout his life Ibn Battuta covered 75,000 kilometres. For contrast, the earth’s circumference is 40,075 kilometres. The distance Battuta travelled during his life time is equivalent to circling the earth two times.
You can also encourage a child to learn about how historically travel has evolved. Travel has changed over the years from us walking on foot historically to using the first horse 5500 years ago, or the first time we used donkeys in Sudan to travel, to the first chariot, ship, boat, car, train to recent events like the first space shuttle or the first Moon landing in 1969. Encourage your child to find out about all of these and how our means of travel evolved. You can also use holidays abroad to teach your children about other cultures by visiting other countries.
You can help your child learn about the various forms of communication employed throughout human history. Writing was first invented around 5,500 years ago in Mesopotamia and in Egypt, where a more symbolic form of writing was used. You can then encourage your child to learn about how writing was used to communicate before the telegraph came along in 1837, and then further encourage them to learn about when landlines, mobile phones, etc were invented and came into use. Encourage them to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different types of communication and how they have been important in human history.
16. Spinning and movements
One interesting fun game to play with a kid is to have him or her stand in for instance 5 different places around the house. The child then spins around in a circle for 10 seconds and then stops. Tell them to note what they see every time they stop. Then you can explain how the Earth is spinning all the time and that is how we measure the day. Explain that the Earth orbits the Sun and that our observation of the sky and the stars change when our position relative to the sun changes. In this way you can introduce not only astronomy, but also history and physics since the earth orbits the sun due to the effect of gravity.
Fashion is another way to teach a child about history. Point out how so many of their clothes are made of cotton and that generally 40% of clothes are made of cotton. Then tell them how cotton was first domesticated in Sudan and then independently in India. Explain to them how West Africans instead made clothes out of silk and raffia. You can then also teach kids about various other materials their clothes are made from. Parents can discuss what kind of clothes people in different areas of the world wear and how styles have evolved over time.
Buildings and architecture can be an excellent way to teach a child about history. Point out the various architectural designs of buildings such as palaces, sports arenas, homes and famous historical places. You can talk about how home constructions have evolved over time to the way we live now, and the differences in houses in rainy areas, dry areas and regions that experience winter.
The throne of Aljafeira palace in Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. Aljafeira palace was built during the 9th century AD and the 10th century AD by the North African rulers of Spain. Picture courtesy of: Nick Wolf
The ancient Egyptians had to figure out when to plant food each year. Every society needed to figure out the best time to plant. Also, they had to figure out how to tax their citizens to pay for their government. Today, modern governments still have to collect revenue too. In societies which relied heavily on agriculture, mathematics and the calculation of areas was important for tax collection. Monarchs needed to conduct censuses to know how many tax payers they had. Monarchs and their administrators also had to ascertain how fit their population was for national security reasons. Mathematics is good for brain development, fundamental to applying all sciences, crucial to all modern professions, integral to climate studies, public health management and national security management. It held a similar level of importance in the advanced societies of the past. In the past, anyone who needed to travel long distances using horses, camels or donkeys had to access the trade-off between resources required at the start of a journey, the load which could be carried by beasts of burden, resources which could be purchased during the journey, and resources required to make return trips. Mathematics is also important for calculating the settlement of debts. In modern times mathematics is important for managing personal finance. In the past, debts were settled by working a certain number of days or years to settle money borrowed. Today, it’s a basic skill for adults who wish to buy houses to have to calculate mortgage payments and also to understand how to settle their mortgage payments early, on time or later. Mathematics is therefore a very important skill that can be used to teach children history, life skills and thinking skills by exposing them to various aspects of basic mathematics which drive the functioning of any society.
The formulae for calculating the area of different shapes. These formulas were used by civil servants for calculating wealth taxes in antiquity. Image courtesy of: Onlinemathlearning.com
In a chess game, there are two sides. The retelling of history often involves examining two sides also. Each player has a king, a queen, two bishops, two knights, two rooks, and pawns. Pawns make 50% of the pieces on the board. A pawn can become a queen, a bishop, a knight or a rook. The bishops could be thought of those who develop a cosmogony for the nation (a theory of how the universe came into existence and our purpose for being). Bishops (holy men or women) in the past were also those who defined the relationship between the monarchs and the people, the relationship between the priestly class and the laity and finally the relationship between the members of the general public. The knights are those the king called upon for support, advice, loans, regional governance and military aid. The queen was often a co-ruler with the king and would have held certain responsibilities.
A chess board. Image courtesy of: www.activityvillage.co.uk
Chess also involves anticipating what a player is going to do and sometimes forcing an opponent into moves that are not desirable in order to win. Sometimes that is how historical events occurred. The role of bishops, knights, queens and pawns reflect how some societies functioned in the past, and how some societies still function. A chess player can either win, lose or draw. These three outcomes have been the range of results of various world events. There are alternatives to chess such as Go. Chess and board games are therefore another way in which parents can teach children about history while also teaching them valuable skills.
A Go board. Image courtesy of: Wikipedia
There are various ways to teach children history. Incorporating these fun ways can help a child learn history without them losing focus and can help them develop a real interest in history. Always encourage your child to learn more about history.