Research supports a multisensory/hands-on approach to learning. Hands-on learning engages students and leads to higher retention of concepts than the traditional lecture or “reading to retain” methods of learning. That’s why we recommend these five hands-on games/activities for history and social studies lessons
5 Games for History or Social Studies
1. The National Geographic Construction Model Kit lets students learn about Leonardo Da Vinci’s creations.
Students can build three wooden 3D machines from history (1400s/1500s). The three machines include a Ballista (an enormous crossbow), a Bombard (an early form of the cannon) and a mighty Catapult.
Go back in time! Players travel through five time periods in early America: Explorers, 13 Colonies, American Revolution, Constitution and the Civil War. The game aligns with national and state standards and is a wonderful learning tool.
Take a ride through human history! Command mighty empires at the height of their power – from the dawn of civilization to the twentieth century.
In this fun game, minds work toward technological advances, ambitious leaders inspire their citizens, and unpredictable catastrophes occur while empires rise and fall.
Similo is a cooperative game of reasoning. Players need to guess the secret historical character!
Cards are vibrant and bright. Children have 12 characters to choose from! When a player guesses the secret character it is removed from the pile.
Other character cards are used as clues to guess who the secret character is by comparing similarities and differences between the characters in a player’s hand and the mystery figure.
Which came first – the invention of mayonnaise or decaffeinated coffee? Lincoln’s Gettysburg address or John Deere’s first plow? With Buffalo Games Chronology you can test your knowledge!
Each player builds their own timeline of cards. When it’s your turn, someone will read you a historical event from a card. You decide where that event falls in your timeline. If you are correct, you keep the card and your timeline grows. The first player to build a timeline of 10 cards wins!
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Can you make up your own hands-on or interactive activity for history?
Try these: Dress up like George Washington and pretend to struggle with “whether or not to chop down the cherry tree.”
Act out a scene from the civil war and record it!
Create a diorama of the pilgrims using art supplies (e.g., paper, markers, popsicle sticks, play-doh).
Hide toy historical figures in the sand and have your child or student find them! Put them in water and ask your child to take them out one at a time (e.g., take out Abe Lincoln, find the 16th president, etc.).
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Rachel Wise is the author and founder of Education and Behavior. Rachel created Education and Behavior in 2014 for adults to have an easy way to access research-based information to support children in the areas of learning, behavior, and social-emotional development. As a survivor of abuse, neglect, and bullying, Rachel slipped through the cracks of her school and community. Education and Behavior hopes to play a role in preventing that from happening to other children. Rachel is also the author of Building Confidence and Improving Behavior in Children: A Guide for Parents and Teachers.
“Children do best when there is consistency within and across settings (i.e., home, school, community). Education and Behavior allows us to maintain that consistency.”