An easy way to make history interactive for your tweens is to use timeline figures as part of your lesson plans.
I found through a lot of trial and error that if I didn’t make history hands-on, my kids (especially my youngest) weren’t going to stay interested very long. But back then, I had no idea where to begin.
These printable images will make it simple for you to start adding some fun projects to your history lessons, even if you don’t know where to start or think you’re creative.
I received this product for free in exchange for writing about my experience and was also compensated for my time. I was not required to post a positive review. These are all the honest opinions of myself and my teens. We’ve used these figures for years and love them. See my disclosure statement.
History is often a challenging subject to teach kids. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you think of everything you should cover and it can be hard figuring out a way to keep students engaged.
Luckily, it’s easy to make this essential subject interesting for older kids. If you want to show them how fascinating the people, places, and stories of the past are, you need to make your history lessons as hands-on as possible. Like with these medieval activities.
The best place to start is to help your middle schoolers see how everything fits together by building a timeline.
What is a Timeline?
A timeline is a visual representation of important historical figures and events. It allows students to see the chronological flow of history and how people and events overlap and relate to one another. When you use a timeline as part of your history lessons, your kids will make connections they’d otherwise miss and will give them a reference they’ll find extremely helpful.
The most popular way to create a timeline is by piecing together sheets of paper along the wall. After drawing a horizontal line down the middle with various dates spaced out along it, students add key events and people along the timeline, chronologically.
One of the best resources out there to help tweens build a historical timeline is the Printable Essential Timeline Library from Home School in the Woods. It’s something you’ll definitely want in your homeschool toolbox.
Printable Timeline Figures
In our homeschool, we studied history chronologically, so we always had some version of a timeline going. After some trial and error, I found that these printable timeline figures worked best for our family and we have used them for many years. They are beautiful, flexible, and comprehensive.
They definitely help make history more enjoyable for kids.
Here are 5 reasons I always included them in our history lessons and why I think you should use them in yours.
1. The library is simple to use, making independent learning easy.
The Printable Essential Timeline Library is a digital resource, so you only have to print off the items you need when you need them. The index makes finding a specific event or person simple.
When my kids were younger, I would print off the timeline figures that related to our history lesson, but as they got older, they did it on their own. They were building their computer skills, plus deciding for themselves what they wanted to highlight on their timeline.
The library also gives you the option to print timeline paper.
2. The list of people and events is quite comprehensive.
Chances are, no matter what you’re studying in history, you’ll find the corresponding timeline figure in this library. It includes 1,444 items, covering decades from ancient to modern history. You’ll have no trouble filling up your timeline with exactly the people and events you want.
In all the years we used these, I rarely had trouble finding what we wanted to highlight, especially when we were studying ancient and medieval history.
3. The timeline library is flexible.
I always look for products that have some flexibility built in, meaning I can adapt them to fit my family’s needs. This definitely checks that box.
When you print off the timeline figures, you get to decide whether to use:
- A small size for a notebook/lapbook or larger one for a wall timeline.
- One with just the name and date listed, or the one that includes a small synopsis of why the event or person was important.
We always used the figures with the information included because the kids enjoyed having the visual reminder of the events on the timeline. It made it more of a comprehensive history resource for them.
Throughout the years, we used these timeline figures in different ways. When they were little, we started with the large wall timeline, but as they got older, we moved toward a timeline notebook because it was more contained and allowed each girl to build her own history timeline.
We’ve also built them to study specific eras or events, like WWII and a women’s history timeline.
And bonus – because the library isn’t tied to a specific curriculum, you can use it regardless of how you teach your children history. In fact, for many years, I didn’t even use a set curriculum for our history lessons and we still successfully used these timeline figures.
4. They are beautiful.
As you can see, all the timeline figures in this library are hand-drawn illustrations that are absolutely stunning.
Before I found these figures, our timeline comprised mostly hastily written events with the occasional sketch thrown in. It wasn’t pretty and was challenging to use as a reference tool. I wanted it to be different, but I didn’t have the art skills or time available to create anything better.
That’s one reason I fell in love with these figures and used them for so many years. My kids are very visual, so when we switched to these, our timelines became much more interesting, and they had an easier time understanding history.
When you use these figures as part of your history lessons, kids get to see what they’re learning about.
5. The figures get kids engaged with history.
As I mentioned, the best way to get kids excited about history is to make it hands-on. Luckily, the printable timeline figures make it easy. The detailed drawings give students a visual representation to relate to as they’re learning.
Plus, the process of setting up a timeline is interactive. First, tweens need to choose which items to print. Once it’s printed, they can cut it out and glue it where they’ll use it. Then, they can use colored pencils or markers to add some color to the black and white drawings to make their timeline pop!
Don’t forget that you can use these figures anywhere – you’re not limited to a paper timeline.
I tried to incorporate writing into our history lessons, so I would print something from the library to glue to a notebooking page so the girls could write a couple of paragraphs about what they learned during history that week.
You can also add the timeline figures to index cards, with the image on one side and the facts on the other, and use them to play a review game with your tweens.
The Printable Essential Timeline Library is one of those rare tools that you’ll use for years with your kids. It’s definitely something I recommend adding to your homeschool. I bought a version of it back when my girls were in early elementary school and I’ve never regretted it.
Amy Pak, from Home School in the Woods has some other tips for teaching with timelines that you can check out.