History lessons can be dry and boring if you rely completely on a dry and boring textbook. But there is a better way!
It’s so easy to make history come alive with the right books and resources. One of the best ways to make your history lessons fun and interesting is with well-planned hands-on history projects.
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No matter the time period you’re studying, there are some activity ideas you can easily include. Hands-on history projects are a wonderful way to make history lessons come alive for your kids. Now, you don’t need to do a hands-on project every day – but a few well-planned projects can make all the difference.
Hands-on history activities and projects can:
- Give you a better understanding of the time and culture.
- Can help you see historical context and how events and people are related.
- Engage kids in their learning.
It’s so easy to become passive learners – read this, fill out that worksheet… blah… blah… blah… However, when we find ways to engage our kids in their learning, it makes such a difference. You can do this will read aloud, interesting assignments, and of course, hands-on projects and activities.
Engaging the minds (and hands) of our kids makes all the difference in their educational experience. Now that you’re convinced to add some hands-on fun to your homeschool day, how should you do it?
Don’t fill your days with meaningless activities. One well-planned and executed activity each week will go much further than a day filled with boring and mindless activities. Best of all, you don’t need a pile of activity books or resources. With just a handful of ideas that can be applied to any time period or culture will be just as useful.
I’ve put together my favourite ways in which we create hands-on learning experiences for History lessons, but as always I’d love to know yours too – so, if there’s one I’ve missed be sure to leave me a comment.
Learn About The Artists Of The Time
When you’re immersing yourself in the culture or time period, take a look at the art from that era or geographical area. Artists, their lives and artwork give us a glimpse of life during that time – how the people dressed and what was important to them.
- Create art using the same mediums as artists from that time period
- Use artwork as inspiration for your own creations
- Read biographies about the artist
Create A Lap Book
Lapbooks and notebooks are a great way to create a capsule of all the things your kids are learning.
They can create little mini-books and interactive booklets filled with details about the time period, the people, the culture… really, anything that interests them. They are a great choice for research assignments.
Kids can research a specific topic and include the information they find in their lap book or notebook. Best of all, a completed notebook or lap book becomes a great addition to your year-end portfolio – displaying everything your kids have studied and learned that year.
Immerse Yourself In The Time Period & Culture
Well-thought-out activities can really immerse you and your kids in the culture and time period of a certain people.
Confession: I know so much about ancient Egyptian history (believe me, I knocked it out of the park watching a recent episode of Jeopardy and knew the answer to every question for that category!).
Why did that happen? Because of how we’ve immersed ourselves in our lessons during that subject – researching maps, making our own fruity mummy, reciting a list of important pharaohs, reading the myths and stories of the people.
No matter the time period or country you’re studying you can apply this in a few different ways:
- Researching and creating costumes
- Making a meal using recipes from that country
- Reading the myths or legends of the country
Play A Game
I love to include games whenever I can – they are such a great learning resource – and who wouldn’t rather play a game than fill out a worksheet?
It can get expensive buying games for every time period you study. Instead, you can opt to find online games or purchase downloadable plans for games that you put together yourself (the bonus being it’s a great craft too!)
Tip: we love to listen to audiobooks while we color, cut out, and assemble our game boards.
Some of my favourite history games available include;
Of course, this is just the beginning, a quick Google will help you find hidden gems specifically related to the person or time period your studying. For example, we did some work on Rosa Parks recently and simply googled ‘Rosa Parks Games’ you can add on a specific age or grade if you’re looking for something specific.
We had thousands of results and the top ten were more than sufficient to keep us going for a couple of weeks! I also found a whole host of new websites to bookmark and use as resources for the future which was a huge bonus.
Create A Map
Understanding how one country fits into the geography of an area brings a whole new level of understanding about that place. Taking time to study that country – its hills, borders, mountains, and other details – can help you see their culture and life in a new way.
You can look at historical atlases or maps. Alternatively, if you’re looking to incorporate crafts then download and print, then color in or even draw your own map of the area.
Consider taking it to the next level and making it even more hands-on by incorporating salt-dough, cookie dough or play dough. We recently covered the Olympics and how they are incorporated into our history both as a nation and worldwide, to make the learning experience more hands-on we followed this incredible salt dough DIY to make some super fun Olympic medals.
Build A 3D Model
Does the country or historical era you’re currently studying have any interesting buildings or inventions? These could be perfect 3D construction models. Either from pre-made kits available online or as a craft.
For example, the 1930s was the decade in which the Empire State Building was built in New York City. The 102-story Art Deco skyscraper is a fantastic demonstration of the architecture in the 1930s and leads onto a discussion surrounding building materials and skyscrapers / high rise building structures.
This free printable allows you to print off a model of the Empire State Building which can be made into a 3D model. Alternatively, consider using construction blocks such as Lego or Duplo.
Create A Timeline
A history timeline is a wonderful project that every middle school child should create. Seeing how historical events and people fit together gives them a better understanding of historical context and how all those events and people are interrelated.
You can create one large timeline for the whole period you are studying or, if that feels a bit overwhelming, smaller topic-based timelines can be just as useful.
Consider displaying this timeline in your homeschooling room, in a bedroom or storing it safely so you can get it out and reference/add to it as your knowledge of historical events improves. These free history timelines are perfect for getting you started.
You can look to take this to the next level with a family tree or family timeline too. This is a great way to discuss important dates such as the years grandparents were born and what special events happened during that year. Get the children to interview the member of the family about what life was like back then – they could even write a report on what life was like which leads us nicely onto our final history project idea.
Do Some Creative Writing
For those kids who love journaling and creative writing, history is a great place to let their creativity run wild. They can journal as if they lived during that time period, ‘interview’ a famous figure of the time, or create their own writing assignment ideas.
This is a great way for children to also improve on their spelling, grammar, research and more…
For a more long-term creative writing project, consider a newspaper. Publish a report once a week as you move through the years week by week. With 52 weeks in a year, you could cover 52 years and of course, this doesn’t have to start when newspapers started. Instead, you could report as though you’re living in Aztec times if you wanted.
Alternatively, you could adapt the reports depending on the time of year. For example, New Year’s eve in the 1930s, Halloween in the 1970s or Christmas in the 1870s.
If your kids are fond of being in front of the camera, consider getting them to record the report on a video camera instead of writing it down. They could even dress the part too.