There are very few subjects as fascinating as human history.
That’s why I find it disappointing if children don’t take an interest in this most time-honored of subjects.
We already know that unlocking a child’s excitement simply requires the right key. As a parent, I’ve found these five techniques to be the perfect catalysts for sparking a kid’s interest.
Take a Trip to a Museum or Historic Site: An afternoon visit to a museum, old battlefield, or a building-turned-tourist-attraction breathes life into history. Children can see the artifacts and walk the sites. Most museums and sites now have interactive exhibits for children to keep their hands busy touching bones, grinding corn, or holding replicas of period pieces.
If you are planning a trip to Washington, DC, the National Archives plans actual sleepovers in the great hall where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution are on display.
Make it Relatable: Children tend to tune-out history when they don’t see how it’s important to them. Whenever possible, take the time to explain how it relates to them. For example: “The reason why everyone can vote today is because 60 years ago, these guys decided to…” If you have an elderly relative or neighbor who is willing to talk about what it was like living long ago, set aside some time for your child to speak with them and help illustrate the connection to history in their young minds.
Give Them History-Themed Toys: Board games like Risk and Axis & Allies are reliable choices, but there are other options. My daughter has a stuffed Gandhi, as well as other historical figures. These are not only tools for cultivating an appreciation in history – they are also role models that she can emulate as she grows up.
If a child loves video games, you can make sure to provide the ones that teach history at the same time. Many games feature important historical battles, for instance.
Show the Usefulness: Like adults, children are more likely to bond with something when they see it has purpose. You can tell them about how history gives them an understanding of why the world turned out the way it did, or how it can help us learn from our mistakes. For older children and teenagers, you can try to show them that there are careers in history-intensive fields: tourism, politics, and teaching are all areas that make good use of history. After all, I’ve never known a journalist who wasn’t part-historian.
Overall, the more engaged and interested that YOU are in history, the more likely your child is to be interested. Find ways to show them how history is still relevant to their life, and they will not be able to resist learning more!
Mark C. Eddy is the author of the new historical fiction book “No Time To Bury Them” and the historical non-fiction “The Recent History of Terrorism in Canada, 1963-2013”. His third book entitled “The Men In The Woods – which takes place in Newfoundland during 1942 and details the island’s role in the chaotic Battle of the Atlantic – will be published in early 2018. He currently lives in Mississauga with his wife and two daughters.