This is a collaborative post.
Some kids are natural history buffs, something about the windows to the past engage them in a way that is almost scary. Other kids, however, struggle to see the relevance of history and tend to find it to be a boring subject.
This blog is for the parents of those kids – or anyone looking to get young people interested in history.
Young kids can get involved with history through narrative books like Horrid Henry and the likes. As they get older, you can introduce them to historical fiction. Using books that have a gripping narrative but are set in a specific time period can have children feeling deeply immersed in a certain point in time.
Very young children can read history-based picture books with a grown-up assisting. Illustrated books about myths and legends are a great starting point, since they have interesting stories with exciting twists that keep children’s attention. From this starting point, you can get your children more interested in the worlds and cultures that created these myths.
As is the case with books, historical movies are engaging ways to get your kids interested in different historical periods. Often, period films are tailored towards adult audiences, and can be a little boring for children. It’s important, therefore, that you choose wisely. You can have a month of family films all set in a specific time period.
Start with something super kid friendly, like a Disney or Pixar movie. The movie, Brave, for example, can kick off your exploration into Celtic history. Throughout the month, you can choose progressively more in-depth or ‘realistic’ films that explore the chosen time period. Keeping a consistent theme for a decent period of time like a month keeps your child focussed and attentive, rather than having them loose focus and become disinterested.
Sharing antiques with your children can seem like a difficult concept, since antiques are usually valuable and children usually find them to be boring. If you get creative, however, you can get the kids involved in a more practical way that will get them interested. Use something like an antique silver teapot to prepare ‘proper tea’ with your kids and take them back to the Victorian era.
Not only will your children enjoy being involved in a ‘grown-up’ activity, they will also be able to take away the experience of what it was like to use the antique, and imagine what it would have been like to use it when it was new. A great way to get your kids up-close-and-personal with antiques is by taking them to museums that offer interactive experiences for kids.
For more recent historical events, a great way of allowing your kids to feel just how close history is to them is by having a living relative tell them stories about those periods. I still remember growing up with classmate’s grandparents coming into school to talk to us about World War II. Having a living breathing person who saw those events present to tell you about what it was like to live in the world at that time is immediately immersive.
Another way you can incorporate storytelling and history into your kid’s lives is through crafts. Creative kids will enjoy using their skills to portray some element of history, whether it’s a royal portrait of Henry VIII or an artistic interpretation of how children were evacuated during World War II. You can choose to display their art at home so that they feel appreciated and understand the importance of their work.
One last way to spark your child’ interest in children is through re-enactment. A key part of this process is dress-up, kids of all ages enjoy playing fancy dress. You can utilise the ‘play’ element of this activity to have their costumes reflect a specific era of time. Ancient Roman gladiators of Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs can play and learn about their periods of history at the same time.
Equally, you can take your children to professionally organised re-enactment events and have them be immersed in action happening all around them, whether this is in the form of highly-detailed events like Kynren in the North East, or more loosely-fantastical events like Renaissance fairs.
Trying out exciting and fun new activities with your kids is the best way to try and spark their interest in history. As the saying goes, those who fail to read their history are destined to repeat it. Learning history gives your kids a glimpse into how the world they know came to be, the good and the bad, and how they can use their own moral compass to strive for good in the future.