It is never too early to encourage your child to love the study of history. From baby and toddlerhood into the preschool years, reading historical stories together sets the stage for a fascinating journey for a child.1
Real stories from the past do more than entertain a preschool child; they teach them lessons that they can study, introduce them to activities they can participate in, and they lay a foundation for further exploration.
Dictionary . com defines history as: a branch of knowledge dealing with past events; a continuous, systematic narrative of past events as relating to a particular people, country, period, person, etc., usually written as a chronological account; and the record of past events and times, especially in connection with the human race.
Using this as a framework allows you to use history to teach about geography, other population groups, and the world.
In my opinion, you don’t need a curriculum to teach history to your preschool child. You need books—lots and lots of books! The Bible is a great introduction to early history. Use a translation you enjoy reading, and read to your child. Hearing stories about Adam, the Ark, and Moses sets the stage for an introduction into the study of Christianity.
Introduce the history of your family to your child. Tell stories about their grandparents and older relatives—especially about what life was like when they were young. This will introduce them to the past, and they can talk to someone that lived in the past (history.) Include stories about what life was like when you were young.3 I still marvel at the surprise I see from preschoolers when they hear I grew up before the microwave, cellphone, or answering machine. It is possible that their great grandparents grew up without a car, running water, or a phone.
An inexpensive reading option to consider is the Scholastic “If You…” series of books.4 They are well illustrated, easy to read, and hold even a wiggly child’s attention. They are stated as for the four to ten-year-old child, so they lend themselves well to multi-aged story time. There are several bloggers that write about the benefits of using these books to teach history concepts.
Stories such as the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery are great examples of historical fiction. These books have been treasured by thousands of children around the world, and reading them will give a good background to a particular time period that you can build upon. Also consider the G. A. Henty books for older preschoolers. (Although my three-year-old loved them, not all preschoolers find them interesting.)
I am a huge Charlotte Mason fan and use many of her principles in my home. She felt the study of history was vital and should be taught in cycles. She believed in reading living books, narrating back what was read to you, and keeping a “Book of Centuries.” There are numerous free and paid resources to this method; just search Charlotte Mason education. I love what Ms. Mason said about studying history:
The object of children’s literary studies is not to give them precise information as to who wrote what in the reign of whom?—but to give them a sense of the spaciousness of the days, not only of great Elizabeth, but of all those times of which poets, historians and the makers of tales, have left us living pictures. In such ways the children secure, not the sort of information which is of little cultural value, but wide spaces wherein imagination may take those holiday excursions deprived of which life is dreary … Every man is called upon to be a statesman seeing that every man and woman, too, has a share in the government of the country; but statesmanship requires imaginative conceptions, formed upon pretty wide reading and some familiarity with historical precedents.—Charlotte Mason5
The study of history lends itself well to incorporating reading aloud with your child. There are numerous benefits to reading aloud to all children so include older siblings when you read to your preschooler. You will build memories and encourage sibling bonding. Reading expert Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, says, “Every time we read to a child, we’re sending a ‘pleasure’ message to the child’s brain, conditioning the child to associate books and print with pleasure.”6
- https:// www . arcadiapublishing . com /Navigation/Community/Arcadia-and-THP-Blog/May-2016/5-Important-Reasons-to-Teach-Your-Kids-American-Hi
- http://www . dictionary . com /browse/history
- http://www .home – school . com/Articles/history-for-preschoolers . php
- http://www . themeasuredmom . com / teach-kidsabout-history-even-preschoolers-can-learn/
- http://www . charlottemasonhelp . com/2009/07/history . html
- http://www . readaloud . org/why . html
Copyright 2017, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.