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4 Ways to Help Your Children Connect to History Outside of a Textbook

Everything we have and are is built upon the past. We, as a civilization and as individuals, are products of our individual and collective histories and children are the link between our past and our future. Too often, learning history is left to rote memorization of facts and dates, but there are more enjoyable ways to learn. Realizing that history constitutes the greatest story time ever is a good start. Finding ways to tell stories of the history all around us is a great way to make it both real and enjoyable for kids and adults. Following are four simple ways to incorporate history learning into family life.

Learn the Family History

Whether it involves flipping through photo albums or simply telling family legends, children love to learn about their family because it helps them form a positive self-identity. Realizing that if Grandpa had been killed in the war, none of his descendants would exist is both thrilling and sobering knowledge for everyone involved. In teaching that the family history is also the “history of me” we can plant seeds that grow into appreciation for the history of communities, countries and entire civilizations.

Read the Signs

There are thousands of historical markers across the United States, and each one tells a story. There are apps that use GPS tracking to send an alert when one is near. Simply reading the signs in your hometown, or along the path of vacation travels, can generate a consciousness for the wealth of history constantly surrounding us.

Go Shopping

Visiting an antique store or fine art dealer can be a terrific way to learn about history while out and about. Specialized merchants are generally passionate about their field and can provide fascinating stories about ancient coins, maps or furnishings. Speaking of coins, you can get connected to a coin dealer, like those at Harlan J. Berk, and get a coin from hundreds of years ago. You can then talk about what that amount of money could buy in the past and how much it is worth today.

Try It on for Size

A historically themed dinner can be wildly entertaining for the entire family. Wearing a stovepipe hat makes memorizing The Gettysburg Address much more enjoyable. Actually wearing petticoats facilitates an entirely different level of respect for pioneer women. On the stinkier side, going a week without bathing can make more real the discomfort of months with family in a covered wagon.

There is no limit to the ways to help children connect with history but the keys are to make it fun and make it interesting. We are wired to love stories and by taking everyday opportunities to showcase fascinating stories of historical figures a curiosity and connection to the past can be fostered at any age.

Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.

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