How to Make American History Interesting for Kids
Are you read to learn how to make American history interesting for kids?
History was one of my least favorite subjects when I was in school. As an adult, I discovered how fascinating history can be and I realized it wasn’t the subject that I had an issue with; it was the way they taught it.
I’m not a textbook kind of person, especially for subjects like American history. Unfortunately, that’s the primary tool public schools use to teach. I remember being incredibly bored while reading the condensed, pre-approved snippets about various historical events.
I want my girls to learn the history I grew to love, so in our homeschool, I do everything I can to make American history fun and interesting. Instead of relying on a textbook, I engage them and bring history to life through American history activities for middle school.
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How to Make American History Interesting for Kids
Want to know the secret for breathing life into American history? Make it as interactive as possible. That means that instead of reading about it from a textbook, use unique tools and fun projects to engage your middle schooler.
Here are three things that we do in our home school to make the subject of history as exciting as possible.
Read Good Books
I know textbooks are the go-to resource for history, but they don’t have to be the only thing your teen reads. Instead, fill your middle schooler’s lesson plan with historical fiction, biographies, autobiographies, and living books. Why?
Because they’re often more relatable, making them much easier for older kids to read and understand. These books allow the reader to feel like they’re right there beside someone as they’re telling their story. They can become wrapped up in a fictional tale while still learning facts. And living books are based on a single subject, allowing your child to zero in and learn a lot about a specific topic.
When I plan out our history lessons, I choose a variety of books for us to read together and for the girls to read on their own. I feel by supplying them with real books over the years, they view history as a living subject, one that they enjoy exploring.
If you don’t know where to start, check out some of my book lists for titles to add to your lesson plans.
- 6 Women’s History Books for Middle School Students
- American Pioneer Books
- Exploring the 13 Colonies: Books and Videos for Middle School Students
- Gold Rush and Wild West Reading List
Play Educational Board Games
You may think that playing board games during school is crazy, but I can tell you that educational games are incredible learning tools. Kids are having so much fun that they don’t even know how much they’re absorbing. My kids get extremely excited when they are able to answer questions correctly during a game because they realize that they’ve grasped something from school.
When I want to work on mastery of a subject, but don’t want to rely on flashcards and worksheets, I’ll turn to a game. While we’re playing, I can easily see what my kids know and what they still need help with.
American Trivia: Family Edition is one game that we’re definitely hooked on. Each player tries to get from a starting city to an ending city by answering questions about geography, history, general, and arts. And because the game cards come in three levels – junior, expert, and genius, we’ll be able to use this for years.
Make History Enjoyable with Hands-on Activities
Making history as interactive as possible is one of the best things you can do for middle school students. Think about it. Kids love exploring, building, and creating.
Instead of just reading a story about chuck wagon meals, create one together. Don’t just read about the planes that flew during WWII, make your own. Let your child play games that children played during earlier centuries. When you add in activities like these, it will be hard for your child to think of history as dry and boring.
Here are a various projects my kids loved and learned a lot by working through them.
Draw and Write through History: Invention, Exploration, and War: The 20th Century
Anytime I can combine Abigail’s two passions, art and history, I have a winner in her eyes. She has already added quite a few new drawings to her sketchbook, but the Titanic and Amelia Earhart were two of her favorites.
Even if your child doesn’t consider herself an artist, the step-by-step instructions will help her feel successful. Plus, kids will love the fun facts which are all over the drawing pages.
Eyewitness Monument Statue of Liberty Kit
With this kit, your kids can create their own mini plaster national monument. My middle schoolers enjoyed mixing up the plaster, pouring it into the mold, then painting it after it dried.
Great World War II Projects You Can Build Yourself
This book contains some fun projects that help kids get a glimpse into the daily life at home and on the war front during this great period in our history. Not only does the book include step-by-step instructions for the hands-on activities, it also gives students excellent facts, interesting biographies, and even some trivia to help them learn about World War II.
As we move throughout history, we cook as we go because I want my kids to experience history, and that includes the food.
I have a couple of historical cookbooks, but what makes this one unique is the number of historical periods included. We definitely enjoyed our buckwheat griddle cakes from the Pioneer days, but we’re also looking forward to making Native American Cornmeal Blueberry Mush, Depression Cake, our own 50s style TV dinners and hosting a Victorian Tea for our friends.
Not only will you find many amazing recipes in this book, but there are also lots of fun historical food facts included too.
Westward Ho! Heart of the Old West Music Book and CD (Experience History Through Music)
I was so excited about this book and CD. My kids love music, so I include it into our lessons when I can, but I have struggled to find some of the American songs that I learned as a kid. That’s why I love this. Now we can listen to these songs while learning the words, plus my daughters can learn to play them on their respective instruments.
Hopefully, you’ve seen that history can be fun and exciting for middle school kids when you take some time to step outside of the textbook.
More Hands-on Activities for American History
- Take a virtual field trip to Washington D.C.
- Have some fun with these Civil War activities.
- 6 Pioneer Recipes to Make With Your Teen
- American Pioneer Notebooking and Activity Unit
- Hands-on History Activities to Bring Early American History to Life