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History For Children: An Overview

By Yann, published on 07/12/2018 Blog > Academia > History > History For Kids

History is a very important subject, as it teaches us about the world, our country, our towns, and our communities and how these came to be what they are today.

Not only is it relevant to those who want to study or work in an environment that requires historical knowledge, but it is also very valuable for all to understand what our ancestors went through to make the life we live possible. That is why it is so important for children to know about their past as early as possible, so that they may grow in curiosity as they get older and show an interest in being one of the people or part of one of the movements in time that changes history for their descendants!

All children are budding historians, they just need a parent or educator to encourage them with their exploration and discovery of histories from the ancient world to the modern world.

While lessons on an education institution curriculum may be the most informative way of learning about the chronological history of the world, younger kids may need a different approach and narrative. Also, what better way to teach kids of all ages about how stuff works, like slavery, presidency, democracy, heritage, than to cast aside the history textbooks and lesson plans for a moment and tell them in a brief and organized way about international and national history? You may miss out some key facts that a history teacher wouldn’t forget, but at least you are offering your little one the chance to gain perspective on a number of historical events before they start their History course at school.

You might find that learning activities like educational games on certain subjects of History help them to appreciate the fun facts about civilization, as well as take on board the not so fun elements of the eras covered. Illustrated books might also be a good way of teaching them in a lighthearted way about important historical matters.

Teaching through activities is far more effective than using textbooks when it comes to younger children. You can teach your children about historical matters, like the potato famine for instance, at almost any time. Photo credit: evoo73 on Visualhunt 

Why Teach Kids History Lessons?

Children, and adults for that matter, so often think that History is a useless lesson that teaches them about people they never knew and about wars that are totally irrelevant to them, but what they don’t realise is that all of these historical events which they read about in their History books are linked to them and their personal history too!

Everything has a knock-on effect in life, almost like karma, but History is factual evidence of how one action can impact on the next. History is a bit like a series of ‘what if?’s!

Even things that happened in Ancient Greece or the Middle Ages impact on society today, so it is important to learn about these times, even if only briefly, to understand the next stages of History that lead us to modern day.

Of course, when teaching children about History, a teacher isn’t going to offer them an intense period by period account of all of time, but they will try to make History fun by mixing up elements of real-life events with the notion that we all have our own history too. This helps to make History more interesting to each and every individual, regardless of their interests, and reinforces the fact that History is all around us!

Furthermore, the teaching of History makes young learners realise from an early age that they, as individuals, have the power to make changes in the world, and not just by becoming the prime minister or a president! For instance, discovering about male and female leaders or influential people can really inspire young minds to find their own purpose and place in History. Both theirs and that of their future!

Resources Answering History Questions For Kids

While children can learn a lot through film and TV, one of the best places to get factual information rather than fictional representations of History, remarkable figures and life-changing events is in books or by using academic websites. Let’s start with just some of the books that could teach and inspire your little ones.

The Best History Books For Kids

Ages 5-18

Fantastically Great Women Who Made History
Kate Pankhurst

‘Fantastically Great Women Who Made History’ is the follow-up to Kate Pankhurst’s ‘Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World’, and looks at the stories, accomplishments, and adventures of many more brilliant women from throughout history.

Included are Harriet Tubman, Mary Shelley, Pocahontas, Ada Lovelace, plus many other remarkable women. The illustrated book offers engaging text, and truly celebrates some of the inspirational women who put their mark on the world we live in.

Politics for Beginners
Alex Frith

What Happened When in the World
DK

Explorers Sticker Book
Fiona Watt

Frightful First World War
Terry Deary

World War II
DK

See Inside History of Britain
Rob Lloyd Jones

Ages 9-12

World War I
DK

This History book offers a good amount of detailed information with equally good visual representations to enhance the text and help the understanding of many of the key aspects and battles of the great war. The photographs and battle maps are in full colour, very detailed and easy to follow. While no account of a war can be completely accurate, detailed and unbiased, this text highlights many facts that people don’t know about this significant war.

World War II
DK

The National Archives: The Buildings That Made London
David Long

The Diary of Anne Frank (Abridged for young readers)
Anne Frank

Young readers will be fascinated by Anne Frank's account as she is someone they can relate to. The Diary of Anne Frank is a must-read for young historians. Photo credit: dayman1776 on Visual hunt 

Top 50 Kings and Queens
Terry Deary

100 Women Who Made History
DK

History Year by Year
DK

Rotten Romans
Terry Deary

The Best History Websites For Kids

BBC History For Kids

This now archived page on the BBC pages is dedicated to children learning about History and enables them to enter ancient worlds, meet famous people from History and discover interesting facts by exploring the various sections, games, and activities offered by the professionals behind the fun and animated site.

Upon falling on the History For Kids page, a gallant knight throws up a range of options of paths for you or your child to choose, which are as follows:

  • Ancient History – explore ancient civilisations through games and quizzes
  • World History – learn the importance of world cultures from Africa to South America
  • British History – explore the different stages of British history through games and quizzes
  • England – understand more about England’s Magna Carta and Wedgwood plate
  • Northern Ireland – discover what the Bangor bell was and other objects
  • Scotland – find out more about Picts and the Scottish Wars of Independence
  • Wales – view Roman gemstones and understand the importance of Welsh coal mining
  • Hands-on History – get children and adults involved with our fun resources

As you can see from this selection of areas covered, the website offers a broad overview of both British and World History as well as details on ancient civilisations. Not only are the different topics covered in easy-to-understand language, they offer up numerous opportunities for interactive learning with a range of games and activities to make use of.

This makes learning fun for all, whether you are doing a Year 5 History assignment with your child or you are looking at the pages as a fifteen-year-old and trying to make sense of a specific period in History that has left you a bit baffled!

National Geographic Kids

The National Geographic Kids website includes amazing facts about animals, Science, History, and Geography, along with fun competitions, games and more. When you delve further into the fascinating site, you’ll find incredible “history facts from around the globe, from ancient civilisations like Ancient Egypt and incredible kingdoms to lost cities and gruesome legends”, all of which are sure to whet the appetite of young historians!

Moreover, you can “discover bloody battles, mighty monarchs and fierce warriors and uncover incredible (and often horrible!) history facts that will wow your friends and family. Learn about awe-inspiring characters from our past, such as Queen Victoria and Henry VIII, life-changing world events like World War I and II, brush up on Britain’s rich and often bloody past and much, much more.”

So, if you want to travel back in time and learn about the true heroes and villains in British and World History, then take a look at some of their popular, featured articles.

Kids Past

This fun and colourful website encourages young learners to explore History, in order to fully comprehend how we are who we are today. By focusing on those who have come and gone before us, the important things they did and the events they were involved in, the creators of this website make discovering the past quite a uniquely fun experience.

The topics are broken down into the following categories:

  • World History
  • Historical Quotes
  • History Music
  • Games
  • Worksheets
  • Videos

As you can clearly see, the focus on this website is on user-friendliness and interactivity to ensure that your kids never get bored of learning and keep wanting to return to learn even more.

World History Facts To Talk To Your Children About

Below are five pivotal historical events or topics that every child should grow up knowing about outside of the classroom.

1. World War I

World War I was known by a number of different names: ‘The War to End All Wars’, The War of the Nations, WW1 and ‘The Great War’.It began on June 28, 1914, triggered by the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his expectant wife by a Serbian terrorist group, called The Black Hand. However, there were many other causes for the war other than this incident. One of the primary causes of WWI was a difference over foreign policy.

Other concerns among nations were The Bosnian Crisis; countries building their military forces, arms and battleships; countries wanting to regain lost territories from previous conflicts and build empires; and, the Moroccan Crisis.

In 1919, The Treaty of Versailles officially ended WWI, insisting that Germany accepted full responsibility for having caused the war; made reparations to some Allied countries; surrendered some of its territory to surrounding countries; gave up its African colonies; and, limited the size of its military. The Treaty also established the League of Nations to prevent future wars.

The League of Nations helped Europe rebuild and fifty-three nations joined by 1923.

2. World War II

Bringing the world close to “total warfare”, approximately 27,000 people were killed each day between September 1, 1939, until the formal surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945.

World War II was by far the most destructive war in human history.

The primary combatants were Italy, Germany, Japan, and the Allied nations, Great Britain (plus its Commonwealth nations), the Soviet Union, and the United States.

A week after the suicide of Adolf Hitler, Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. The Japanese would go on to fight for nearly four more months until they eventually surrendered on September 2, brought on by the U.S. dropping atomic bombs on the Japanese towns of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Despite winning the war, Britain lost much of its empire. The USA and USSR emerged from the Second World War as global superpowers.

3. The Cold War

There has been a lot of talk about Russia in the news in recent months, and for kids to understand why our relationship with the former Soviet Union and its president, Vladimir Putin, is as sensitive as it is, they really need to know about the Cold War.

The US and the Soviet Union competed for political, economic and military influence all over the world from 1945 onward. It was called a Cold War because the two sides never actually engaged in a full-scale military conflict.

“The Cold War reached its peak in 1948–53, when the Soviets unsuccessfully blockaded the Western-held sectors of West Berlin (1948–49); the United States and its European allies formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a unified military command to resist the Soviet presence in Europe (1949); the Soviets exploded their first atomic warhead (1949), thus ending the American monopoly on the atomic bomb; the Chinese communists came to power in mainland China (1949); and the Soviet-supported communist government of North Korea invaded U.S.-supported South Korea in 1950, setting off an indecisive Korean War that lasted until 1953.” – Britannica.com

4. Immigration

Immigration may not seem like a huge historical event, but it is yet another story dominating the news lately. It’s important to note, however, that our history with immigration is not new.

A labour shortage after WWII sparked mass immigration that would transform Britain. It started with an influx of immigrants from the Commonwealth, then the fall of the Iron Curtain, and those fleeing from dangerous leadership regimes across the world. You may want to teach your offspring a bit about The Windrush, which arrived in Britain in June 1948.

5. The Holocaust

You may not want to expose your children to the horror of the Holocaust, but they must know a bit about this important moment in History. Many will have heard of Hitler, but it is important for children to know a bit about the Holocaust and the way it impacted the world. Photo on VisualHunt.


Finally, exposing kids to the genocide of 6 million men, women and children isn’t for the faint of heart, so teaching children about this time in history should ideally end in a message of hope.

There are a number of books that can also help make the understanding of this period a bit easier, but remember that even reading about the Holocaust is challenging, so expect to have lots of questions thrown at you. That said, watching images on a screen is even more difficult. For that reason, films surrounding the Holocaust should really be kept until kids are older as images are no doubt very distressing and can be haunting.

Another important topic for your child is the Romans.

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