Teaching Children a Love of History

Written By: Mary M. Alward
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Parents and grandparents are responsible for teaching children a love of history. To begin, relate anecdotes and stories of family to your child. Bring out old family photographs, birth and death certificates and other sources of your family history. Help your child make a family tree, going back at least three generations. Tell kids as much as you know about your ancestors and record the information in a journal or scrapbook. If you have photographs of ancestors who are deceased, show them to your child and tell them something about the people that are in them.

It’s important to share your memories with your children. What did you do for fun when you were young? Were there any TVs or computers? What was the school like that you attended? My grandsons are in awe that I attended a one-room school where a 19 year-old teacher taught eight grades consisting of 56 students. They can’t quite comprehend how one teacher could teach grade eight boys who were almost as old as she was.

When election time rolls around, be sure to practice your right to vote. Tell your child who was President when you were born and who was President when they were born. Also tell them who you voted for the first time you cast a ballot. My grandsons ask me questions about John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. They want to know what it was like growing up in the 50s and 60s when the cold war raged and assassinations of US leaders were the norm.

Be sure to encourage your children to vote when their school has an election. Encourage them to run as a candidate. This allows them to gain historical knowledge and use their voice for what they believe in.

A parent’s attitude has a huge impact on how their children look at history. It’s necessary for parents and grandparents to teach children the historical events that made our world what it is today. Teach children about historical events that took place during your childhood, as well as events that interest you. If you are a Civil War buff, teach your children about the Civil War. Did one or more of your ancestors take up arms during that era? These types of anecdotes are especially interesting to children. My Uncle Bill landed at Dieppe and my grandsons love hearing about the role he played in the landing, even though it was a fiasco.

If you are a parent or grandparent who dislikes history, read a biography on a famous person of historical significance. If you are patriotic, read about Clara Barton, Betsy Ross or a figure from the American Revolution, such as Paul Revere or Benjamin Franklin. Rent a historical movie that’s based on fact, such as Root, North and South, The Sinking of the Bismarck or something else that piques your interest. As you discover historical events that you are interested in, discuss them with your children or grandchildren to get them involved as well.

Make history a habit; something you explore with your children on a regular basis. Encourage older family members, such as grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles to share their memories of historical events with your child. Also ask them to share family stories and to talk about your ancestors and the way they lived. Where they pioneers? Did they immigrate to this country? Where did they come from? Why did they come? There are so many questions to be answered and kids love hearing about those who helped make them who they are.

Share books and movies about historical events and people with kids and then discuss the. Take your child to the local library and scour the shelves for history books of interest, such as The Diary of Anne Frank or, for younger kids, What’s the Matter with Albert. The latter is about the boyhood of Albert Einstein. These books give children a glimpse into the lives of historical people when they were kids.

Visit museums with children. Research the story of the flag, holidays, the national anthem and other interesting things about our country. Choose activities that will make learning history fun. Be sure to adapt activities to your child’s age level. If the activity is too easy, boredom will set in. If it’s too difficult, children become frustrated. However, kids love a challenge and when they succeed they will experience a sense of accomplishment that will boost their self-esteem.

Today, history is much more than memorizing dates, events and names. History is fun when events are pieced together much like a puzzle. One of the most enjoyable aspects of history is delving into the past and reliving the era.

History Activities

• Have a storytelling party with friends and relatives. Choose to tell a story from history that everyone is familiar with. It can be about a person or an event. Be sure that all persons participating have information correct. Form a circle and have each person add something to the story.

• Read a book with your child about a historical event or person. There are hundreds of books available in the history department of the local library. If you have trouble finding them, ask the librarian for help. Once the story has been read, discuss it with your child and encourage him to ask questions. If you don’t know the answers, do a bit of research that includes his participation.

• Research the history of your city or town. Visit historical sites and museums.

• Do a little research. Find a recipe from the past. If you live in an area that is rich in Native American history, make buffalo stew. If buffalo meat isn’t available, use stewing beef instead. Another option is American Indian bread. If your ancestors came from Ireland, make potato soup or Irish stew. Many old recipes can be found at the library or on the Internet.

There’s so many different activities you can do with your children or grandchildren to make history come alive. Attend a Civil War reenactment, an old time ice cream festival or other living history venues. Enjoy a little history with your child to light the spark of interest in history. It will make your child’s life so much richer.

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