How to make history unboring for children
Stuck for ideas to make history fun and fascinating for your kids? Whether they’re into Vikings, Victorians or cavemen, there are plenty of ways you can delve into the past to keep them entertained this summer. Siân Hammerton-Fraser, Visitor Experience Manager here at Chiltern Open Air Museum, has some great suggestions for making history come to life!
1. Be part of the action: Taking the kids to see a re-enactment is an exciting way to bring history to life. Chiltern Open Air Museum stages a series of ‘living history’ events throughout the summer, where they can watch a Roman siege engine being fired, meet the riflemen of Wellington’s Army, try on a knight’s helmet and learn a few Medieval dance moves.
2. Log on for inspiration: Visit www.bbc.co.uk/history forkids for historical games, quizzes and activities, from building a pharaoh’s tomb to creating your own Bayeaux Tapestry to playing ‘Viking Quest’ where you build a ship, cross the seas to loot a monastery and return home to claim your prize. Perfect for a rainy summer’s day.
3. Go on a fossil hunt: Budding palaeontologists will love the challenge of searching for and then identifying fossils. They are often found on beaches, in quarries, on farmland and even in people’s gardens – anywhere that sedimentary rocks are exposed. Start by joining an organised fossil hunt. Try a local geology society or venture further afield with somebody who knows the site well and can guide you safely.
4. Trace your roots: Looking into family history together gives children an insight into the lives of their ancestors and helps bring their own piece of history to life. Create a family tree, ask older relatives what they remember about their families and dig up old letters, photographs, heirlooms, medals and anything else stashed away in the attic.
5. Dress up: You don’t need a well-stocked fancy dress box to be an ancient Egyptian, Roman, or Victorian chimney sweep for a few hours. Let their imaginations and creative skills run riot. For example, an old white sheet will do for a toga, just glue on some gold trim or ribbon, plait together some wool or use thin rope for a belt and complete the look with sandals and a centurion’s sword made from cardboard covered in tin foil.
6. Cook up a storm: Help them learn about what people ate in different eras by trying out a few recipes. Host a Victorian tea party with a Victoria Sandwich cake as the centerpiece, or if you’re feeling adventurous, how about making a Medieval meat pie?
7. Guess who lived there: Visit historic local buildings or just point out interesting architecture in your area. Can they guess the eras of buildings and who lived there? What were their lives like? Were they rich or poor? Can they re-create the different architectural styles at home with Lego?
8. World War One centenary: This year marks 100 years since the outbreak of World War One. Take them to see a local war memorial and talk about how the war started and what life was like for soldiers in the trenches. Instead of using history books as references, download an interactive World War One app aimed at kids.
For some supervised outdoor fun, find out more about our Terrific Tuesdays holiday sessions.
The museum also offers a variety of children’s party packages, which includes themed outdoor and indoor activities and access to the adventure playground.