Hands-on is one of the best ways to learn for many kids. It helps them to understand what is going on and to experience things first hand.
The history of mankind can be dry, boring, and hard to remember when it is laden down with dates and facts to remember. What if your children could experience history for themselves? An activity-packed unit could be a step in the right direction toward helping your child fall in love with history.
Starting with the stone age these simple unit plans provide ideas and inspiration for teaching your child about history so they really feel like they are part of it.
The Stone Age
The stone age is a period of history that started around 2.3 million years ago when man started using tools made from stone and lasted till around 3,300 BCE when metalwork was started.
It is a fascinating period of history divided into 3 sections, the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods. At the start early man was made up of many different species of man but by 24,000 years ago only Homo Sapiens remained.
Here are our ideas to bring history alive with your child in this hands-on history unit about the stone age.
Books about The Stone Age
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We love introducing topics and themes with some reading, although you can find more books about the stone age in our resource we've picked our 3 favourites below that we start with, non-fiction, easy picture book, and then a read aloud to share with the kids.
- DK Find out! Stone Age
- The First Drawing by Mordicai Gerstein
- Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver or Stig of the Dump by Clive King
We also dipped into the amazing Acquila Magazine Ice Age for information about what life was like the number of times that the world froze during the period.
My eldest also picked up The Boy with the Bronze Axe by Kathleen Fidler as it is based at the real life Stone Age settlement of Skara Brae on the Island of Orkney in Scotland. It's a great read that transitions from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age and more of the UK history.
Getting Started: Making a Stone Age Shelter
To get a better idea of how people lived in the Stone Age, you may want to allow your child to “do school” as a “Stone Age kid”.
Make a makeshift shelter, such as the one shown in the video below for an indoor shelter, or read our guide on how to make a forest shelter for outside, together with your child and allow them to do their schoolwork there. If the weather is nice, you could even make the shelter in your yard and take your school outside for this unit.
Watching this next YouTube video will definitely give them more perspective on what it was like to live during that time period. Making a shelter wasn’t an easy 30 min task back then!
History: Learning about the Stone Age
Archeologists have divided the stone age into three periods: the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods. You may want to let your child watch this short video that introduces the way people lived during the stone age.
One thing that my children struggled to understand is how people came to live in different parts of the world. This video explains what the land bridge was (between Asia and North America) and how people came to live on and migrate to various continents even though they are separated by oceans and seas.
Experience Stone Age Life
Since this unit study is all about experience, you may want to allow your child to try and make their own stone-age tools and even learn to start a fire:
- Start by introducing how the Stone Age Man would have made their tools from rocks and stones. Watch the video below together.
Now let your child go look for various rocks and sticks outside to make their own Stone Age axe. A simple version can be found here.
2. Make a fire, this was a game-changer for Stone Age man, they were able to survive the numerous ice-ages that occurred during the period. Watch the video and then make your own fire.
Make sure to have some marshmallows on hand because once you get that fire going, making smores is definitely the next logical step!
Language: Using Reference Books
There may have been some words mentioned in these videos that your child has been unfamiliar with until now. This may be an excellent time to teach your child how to use a dictionary and other reference books. Reference books are available online but learning to use physical reference books with guidewords is still important knowledge to have.
If your child has not yet learned to place words into alphabetical order, you may want to start by teaching that skill first and then move on to learning to search for words in alphabetical order.
Using this adorable prehistoric writing paper, and have your child write the following words in alphabetical order, look them up, and write a short definition for each one:
- Age (this is a great word to use as an example of how a word can have several meanings).
You may want your child to use these words to write a short narrative on what they’ve learned about the stone age.
Graphing is a wonderful way for kids to create visuals to display and compare the knowledge they’ve learned. Since the stone age is such a long, vast period of time, putting that knowledge into a graph helps to give children some perspective.
There are three kinds of graphs that are usually taught to younger children, line graphs, bar graphs, and picture graphs.
Research and Graph
Then do some research together to complete the following tasks:
Line Graph: Draw a line graph showing the change sea levels during the the years of the stone age.
Bar Graph: Draw a bar graph comparing the warmth of the climates in the three periods of the stone age.
Picture Graph: Draw a picture graph showing approximately how many people lived during each period of the stone age.
Another type of graph is a timeline. It is helpful in visualizing the history of the world.
Using a long piece of butcher paper, create a timeline with your child showing the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic periods of the Stone Age.
Science: Foraging and Poisonous Plants
In the Stone Age, people were hunter-gatherers. It was only during the last period, the Neolithic Period people learned to actually grow crops but until then, they foraged and hunted for their food.
Can you imagine living that way today? How would we know what is edible in the wild?
Watch this video question and answer session for some tips that you can use with your child.
These two videos will teach you how to recognize some healthy plants and nuts that can be found in the forest today.
After watching these videos, you may want to plan on taking your child to the forest to look for them. If you are uncertain and somewhat fearful of foraging on your own, you could look for a foraging group in your area and ask to join them for a day.
Cooking: Making Nordic Stone Age Bread
After all of that studying and learning, one needs fortification! You may enjoy taking a break to make this Nordic Stone Age Bread as a family. It is certainly an eye-opener to notice the difference between bread today and the bread back then!
Films & Documentaries about The Stone Age to Watch
As well as the video's we have highlighted which will help you teach and experience parts of the Stone Age with your kids you may want to watch some of these films and documentaries below:
- Introduction to the Stone Age
- A day in the life of a 10 year old in the Mesolithic from BBC Education
- Early Man - A fun stop start animation about Early Man this isn't accurate but was a fun way to finish off the unit on the Stone Age
The way we live life today is drastically different from the way life was lived in the Stone Age. Let us know what your family enjoyed the most from learning about the Stone Age.