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Why History is important to learn for children

Learning From the Past

Although history might sound like a daunting subject for young learners, the importance of discussing ‘the past’ is invaluable in helping children understand the world. Foundation stage history is a new addition to the national curriculum’s learning objectives to support this very development; introducing children to the concepts of time and change is fundamental in supporting this. Indeed, the September 2021 EYFS framework specifically features ‘past and present’ as a new early learning objective.

As young children move into a reception setting, they will be increasingly aware of changes in routine – be that different times of the day or seasons of the year – which affect their day-to-day activities. Recognising, for example, the different types of clothes they wear or events they celebrate throughout the year teaches children the concept of change over time. Encourage these early history skills at home by observing your child’s baby photos with more recent photos of themselves - seeing tangible, physical change will foster comparison and an understanding of ‘then’ and ‘now’.

History and development

It has been suggested that children aged 3-5 have some embryonic capacity for historical thinking, for example, recognising different interpretations of stories, showing an awareness of time, as well as deductive reasoning (drawing logical conclusions) in informal situations.

Early history skills help to nurture curiosity in young children, be sure to ask questions like ‘what do you think?’, ‘what will happen if?’, and ‘why do you think that?’; this allows children to delve beneath the surface level, and places their own experiences at the centre of history.

History also serves to inspire, learning about heroic individuals who changed the way we live is a source of inspiration that is sure to ignite your child’s imagination - tell the tale of Harriet Tubman’s escape to freedom and Neil Armstrong’s expedition to the moon!

Because history is so diverse, learning about different elements of our past makes for more rounded, well-versed individuals. From inspiring and uplifting, to devastating and immoral, the stories that define our past teach us about joy and suffering; in turn, children will learn to distinguish between right and wrong. This will further enhance their understanding of ‘difference’ as a concept - learning about disparate cultures and peoples is crucial in a modern world where inclusivity is valued, and diversity is celebrated.

History at home

  • A great way to encourage young historians at home is by following the life cycle of plants and insects from your garden. Follow the journey from caterpillar to butterfly or tadpole to frog and observe how these creatures change with time.

  • Visit a nearby Abbey or Castle, notice how some historical sites may be in ruins after years of decay. Tell the tale of who lived there and what they did - bring the story to life!

  • If you have a sand area, hide fossils and let your children find them. Hands-on activities are not only stimulating but teach children about artefacts and evidence used in discussions about the past.

  • Encourage your child’s awareness of historical features in your area, this could be a town hall, temple, cathedral - note how some buildings look older than others.

  • Take your children to museums, galleries, and history-themed events. English Heritage has an abundance of fun family activities and events to get young children engaged and excited about history

  • Get crafty and use scraps of paper and cardboard to make your very own royal crown or medieval knight's helmet, encourage your child to use colours and stick-on jewels to personalise their armour!


Follow-along arts and crafts:

Historical bakes:

The land before time – children will love this vividly illustrated PowerPoint all about dinosaurs and what happened to them:

This activity sheet will help children understand past and present by comparing old, Victorian toys with modern-day toys:

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