My children like to play history. Especially when we studied U.S. history, this was almost a daily occurrence. We are coming back around to study U.S. history again, and I am so excited to see what they are going to play this time. My younger 2 are about the age the older 2 were the first time we studied U.S. history so I can’t wait to see how our play has grown.
More than anything else we did that year, our times of playing history stand out the most. I have been making book lists, buying curriculum, and thinking about next year’s schedule. Maybe I should focus more on gathering dress-up clothing and gear!
Here are some examples of how my children played their way through U.S. History three years ago:
Pilgrims: My kids acted out the journey on the Mayflower. This was actually an idea I heard about first here, but we were less “formal” in our play. Maybe this year, we’ll do the whole re-enactment. I think my kids would enjoy making hardtack (well, a gluten-free version anyway). We made paper Pilgrim hats, and Ruthie has a pilgrim dress she got from friends. Years ago, we even had white shirts I had dyed with tea to make Native American costumes. We might need to make new ones since I don’t remember seeing them in our dress-up bin.
Colonists/Revolutionary War: My children were constantly being minutemen with their pop guns, colonial bonnets, and tri-cornered hats. After reading Sam the Minuteman, this became one of their favorite pastimes. Sometimes this would include a re-creation of the Boston Tea Party or scenes from Liberty’s Kids. I already shared my only photograph of them doing this 3 years ago here.
Explorers and Traveling out West: My children have coonskin caps, prairie bonnets, cowboy vests, bandannas, and (gasp) play guns. They would pretend to be Louis and Clark, Davy Crockett, or someone traveling on the Oregon Trail. They would pack everything into their “wagon” – maybe a laundry basket or a backpack – and move from place to place. I think they even acted out being on a cattle drive if I remember right.
The Underground Railroad: After reading about Harriet Tubman, my children used to pretend to be slaves escaping to freedom. They figured out good hiding places in the house and pretended to travel stealthy throughout our home. (I didn’t like that they kept pretending that I was trying to catch them. Who wants to play the bad guy?)
Does playing history sound fun to you? It does to me. I’m so excited to see what new things we will play in the upcoming year. If you want to get your children into playing history, here would be my suggestions:
- Gather some simple dress-up supplies like old-fashioned hats and bonnets, aprons, cowboy vests, other clothing, guns, tools, bandanas, or even cardboard, felt, and paper to make your own. (Honestly, there are probably a ton of Pinterest ideas out there to make dress up clothing if you are so inclined. We bought most of ours, but I did sew simple cowboy vests from felt.)
- Read or watch stories of history with your children so they have some idea of what to play. This can be Liberty’s Kids, books from U.S. History, or just talking about a particular history sentence you are memorizing.
- Encourage them to start something by suggesting “How could we pretend to be Pilgrims?” or “Would you like to have lunch along the Oregon Trail?” and then pack them a lunch while they set up.
- Give your children plenty of time. Often, my children’s creativity takes over the minute I just get out of their way. I provided the “tools” with the dress-up clothing, and then I made sure to not pack their day with too much “stuff”. It’s amazing what they come up with when I don’t plan every minute.
I asked my children if they would gather up some dress-up clothing for me to take a picture for this post. As I sit here typing, my son walked by with pretend furs to take to the trading post on his way to hunt buffalo for their dinner. My daughter called down the stairs saying something about having the hides sewn by the time he got back. I can not wait to see what they think of next.
Do your children play history? What do you do to encourage it?
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