When it comes to learning, a reference book or scholastic textbook definitely has its place, but sometimes kids need a little motivation to make learning fun.

And there are no better learning tools to help kids learn when things get dull than educational games! If you’re at a loss when it comes to finding kids games – no worries, we have it sorted and many of the ideas aren't digital games that involve screen time!

woman and young children using tablet
There are plenty of great educational apps, but not every game has to be played on a device! - Unsplash

Get a jumpstart by browsing the internet for sites that are focused on education. It’s all good and well playing fun games but not all games for children actually help them learn.

You want to find interactive games and learning activities that will not only engage them but also build literacy skills while cementing historical lessons and concepts.

History for Kids - Why All the Fuss?

Firstly, let’s establish why history or social studies is such an important aspect of our education ...

History affects us all, and if we want to help children understand what it means to be a good world citizen then we need to show them that there are consequences for one’s actions – good or bad.

Colosseum in Rome
A child that understands world history will have a well rounded world view - Unsplash

Hidden in the history books are a plethora of examples to draw from and they’re not moral lessons found in a story book, these are real events that have shaped our world.

We can help kids understand and appreciate their culture and at the same time celebrate the differences between themselves and others and encourage interactivity. By exploring various aspects of history, children develop thinking skills and empathy as they gain a better understanding of different religions and races.

Why It’s Important for Everyone to Have a World-View of History

Let’s remember that the point of learning history is not to memorise dates and facts but actually about learning valuable moral and life lessons from historical events.

According to the CAPS FET history document, one of the key concepts in the study of history is “Cause and effect: This is the reason for events and the results of them. The consequences of something drive future events and help explain human behaviour.”

The syllabus for History in the FET Band is outlined as follows:

  • Grade 10 – 16th century - 19th century
  • Grade 11 – 1900 – 1960s
  • Grade 12 – overlaps the '60s with the Cold War to present day.

Of course this three year curricula course covers an immense expanse of historical events and it’s therefore difficult to explore one specific topic in great detail before time runs out. However, educators are encouraged to make room for creative educational activities in their lesson plans and help kids with memory skills.

Man and woman wearing traditional African clothes
The South African culture is rich and varied and it's important for our kids to know their place in the world - Unsplash

The important topics covered during the FET Band are:

  • The French Revolution
  • Colonial expansion
  • The South African War and Union
  • Communism
  • Capitalism
  • Nationalism
  • Apartheid
  • First and Second World Wars
  • The Cold War
  • Independent Africa
  • Civil Society protests
  • Civil Resistance in South Africa
  • Democracy in South Africa.

Easy Learning With Role Play

As soon as we are aware of what will be expected of our children in terms of school based history, we can begin familiarising them with these topics at home. Enrich their early learning years by introducing historical concepts as you spend time playing games with your kids. You could also watch an educational video here and there, such as one we recommend the Horrible Histories clips for a good laugh.

It’s no secret that kids love learning through games. If we find games that are age appropriate and utilise this natural gift of play at preschooler level then by the time we have school kids on our hands we would have had plenty of opportunities to do fun activities with our kids that prepare them for school – from maths to history and more!

Introduce History for Kids Through Dress-Up Games

For ages dress-up has been one of the most natural and effortless learning games for kids. Think about expanding your dress up box by adding a couple of interesting historical costumes.

These outfits needn’t be boring and dull. In fact you could actually maximise your educational efforts by making craft activities out of creating some of the characters and getting your little ones to help before they play a game of historical dress up. Think about how much fun it would be to create costumes based on Ancient Egypt and the pharoahs ... Of course, there are also plenty of costumes that can be bought online or in party shops too.

children wearing costumes
Next Halloween or costume party try out an historical outfit - Unsplash

Perhaps your child only ever dresses up for themed parties or Halloween, but even these rare occasions can be a lovely learning activity as you spend time discussing various options. You could suggest funny historical characters or themes and spend a bit of time giving them an exciting background story.

These are some fun costume suggestions:

  • Dinosaurs
  • WW2 Soldier
  • Shaka Zulu
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Marie Antoinette
  • Roman god
  • Pirate
  • Viking
  • Astronaut
  • And many more ...

Role Playing as a Teaching Aid

According to kids educational experts using drama in game-based learning is more effective if you set the scene using the specifics of a historical event.

These are three factors they suggest you consider when planning activities for kids:

  • The identity/roles of the people involved in the situation;
  • The time and place of the events;
  • A focus or issue that concerned the people involved.

Be sure that you’re clear about what lesson you’re hoping to convey to the child/learner before attempting to use dress up as a learning game.

Parents might have a more casual approach when it comes to fun educational games, whereas educators will look for games where the learning outcome is likely to be more focused.

Begin the dramatic exercise with a fun learning reference such as an interesting anecdote, reading material, photograph or even an antique prop.

Man and child in African traditional clothes and face paint
Add some fun local South African costumes to your dress up collection - Unsplash

Learning games for kids don’t have to be elaborate at all and, as children play, we can take cues from their responses to the scenarios we set up and see which skills we need to hone.

Sometimes the best game is the simplest of all the games.

History Games, Interactivity Ideas and Websites

 

Ducksters

Ducksters offers such a diverse array of learning material on so many history topics but we love that there is a really comprehensive section on Ancient Africa for kids.

There’s a page dedicated to each topic that you can either read with your child or have your child read independently depending on their age and reading skills. Every page also offers a quiz which really makes this a fulfilling online learning experience and helps parents to gauge how much their children have comprehended.

child playing with globe of the world
Some of the geography games on Ducksters really compliments children's social studies - Unsplash

Although Ducksters doesn’t offer games on history specifically, there are plenty of great games in the Geography section that also serve as helpful supplements to History studies (and are integral for Social Studies as taught in the Intermediate and Senior phases).

 

National Geographic Kids

The National Geographic site for kids has a fantastic section on history.

They offer bite size portions of information on various topics that are perfectly tailored for children, cutting through all the complicated information. Each topic boasts a colourful interactive printable that also serves as excellent reading activities and there are instructions for an educational activity to reinforce the lesson. What is really wonderful is that they offer advice on how to incorporate the learning material into the UK curriculum and they plan to do the same for South Africa!

Keep a close eye on this website as they are constantly updating their content and resources. If you don’t find relevant games and activities this week, you may be pleasantly surprised a week later!

 

SAHA - The South African History Archive 

SAHA is perfect for older learners. The site isn’t specifically geared towards activities for kids but boasts a very comprehensive overview of South African history.

This is a good place to start for kids learning about uniquely South African topics and highly recommended if your child is doing research for a history task. Point them towards SAHA instead of wasting time doing an open ended online scavenger hunt for relevant information.

Not All of the Games Need to Come From the Internet

There are plenty of other wonderful resources out there and it’s always clever to keep it local. See if there are any interesting museums or holiday workshops in your area.

And don’t forget about your local library, which is probably a gold mine of educational history books. Most libraries also offer a selection of jigsaw puzzles and board games. You may find a puzzle game with a historical theme – this is a fun game that teaches kids problem solving skills.

parents and children playing board game
Playing games together as a family can be such a rewarding experience - Unsplash

You could also design your own historically themed memory game or flash cards to work on learners’ memory skills.

Try planning a treasure hunt that takes children on a trip into the past! A fun adventure game for kids is appealing to all ages from preschool and up.

Need a History teacher?

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Kyla

Born from a family of creatives, Kyla has a passion for the arts and interior design.