Your Child Learn History
U.S. Department of Education
Children are born into history. They have no memory of it, yet they
find themselves in the middle of a story that began before they became
one of its characters. Children also want to have a place in historytheir
first historical questions are: "Where did I come from?"
and "Was I always here?" These two questions contain the
two main meanings of history: It's the story of people and events,
and it's the record of times past. And because it's to us that they
address these questions, we are in the best position to help prepare
our children to achieve the lifelong task of finding their place in
history by helping them learn what shaped the world into which they
were born. Without information about their history, children don't
"get" a lot of what they hear and see around them.
parents can be a positive force in helping their children develop
an interest in history, they also can undermine their children's
attitudes by saying things such as: "History is boring,"
or "I hated history class when I was in school." Although
you can't make your child like history, you can encourage her
[ 1 ] to do so, and you can take steps to ensure that she
learns to appreciate its value.
begin, you can develop some of the following "history habits"
that show your child that history is important not only as a school
subject but in everyday life.
are activities that we do on a regular basis. We acquire habits
by choosing to make them a part of our life. It's worth the time
and effort to develop good habits because they enhance our well-being.
The following history habits can enrich your life experiences and
those of your child.
family history with your child, particularly your own memories of
the people and places of your childhood. Encourage your parents
and other relatives to talk with your child about family history.
with your child about people and events that have made a difference
in the world and discuss the readings together. (The list of publications
in the Resources
section at the end of this booklet can serve as a starting point
for choosing materials.)
your child know that the people who make history are real people
just like her, and that they have ideas and dreams, work hard and
experience failure and success. Introduce your child to local community
leaders in person if possible and to national and world leaders
(both current and those of the past) by means of newspapers, books,
TV and the Internet.
TV programs about important historical topics with your family and
encourage discussion about the program as you watch. Check out library
books on the same topic and learn more about it. See if the books
and TV programs agree on significant issues and discuss any differences.
globes, maps and encyclopedias (both print and online versions)
available to your child and find ways to use them often. You can
use a reference to Africa in your child's favorite story as an opportunity
to point out the continent on a globe. You can use the red, white
and green stripes on a box of spaghetti to help her find Italy on
a map and to learn more about its culture by looking it up in the
out from your library or buy a collection of great speeches and
other written documents to read with your child from time to time.
As you read, pause frequently and try to restate the key points
in these documents in language that your child can understand.
History With Your Child
a parent, you can help your child want to learn in a way no one
else can. That desire to learn is a key to your child's success,
and, of course, enjoyment is an important motivator for learning.
As you choose activities to do with your child, remember that helping
her to learn history doesn't mean that you can't have a good time.
In fact, you can teach your child a lot through play. Here are some
things to do to make history both fun and productive for you and
conversation to give your child confidence to learn.
Encouraging your child to talk with you about a topic, no matter
how off the mark he may seem, lets him know that you take his ideas
seriously and value his efforts to learn. The ability to have conversations
with your child profoundly affects what and how he learns.
your child know it's OK to ask you questions.
If you can't answer all of her questions, that's all rightno
one has all the answers. Some of the best answers you can give are,
"Good question. How can we find the answer?" and "Let's
find out together." Together, you and your child can propose
possible answers and then check them by using reference books and
the Internet, or by asking someone who is likely to know the correct
the most of everyday opportunities.
Take advantage of visits from grandparents to encourage storytelling
about their livesWhat was school like for them? What was happening
in the country and the world? What games or songs did they like?
What were the fads of the day? Who are their heroes? On holidays,
talk with your child about why the holiday is observed, who (or
what) it honors and how and whether it's observed in places other
than the United States. At ball games, talk about the flag and the
national anthem and what they mean to the country.
that children have their own ideas and interests.
By letting your child choose some activities that he wants to do,
you let him know that his ideas and interests have value. You can
further reinforce this interest by asking your child to teach you
what he learns.
more information, as well as a free booklet with made up of activities
that you can use with your child to strengthen his history knowledge
and build strong positive attitudes toward history, visit: www.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education
Office of Intergovernmental and Interagency Affairs
Helping Your Child Learn History
Washington, D.C., 20202
Please note: In this booklet, we refer to a child as "he"
in some places and "she" in others. We do this to make
the booklet easier to read. Please understand, however, that every
point that we make is the same for boys and girls.