Smart Summer Fun: 30 Ideas for History Dorklets

Geek Mom of Wired.com recently published this brilliant post about fun things to do with your geeklets: Smart Summer Fun: 30 Ideas For Your Geeklets | GeekMom | Wired.com.  I love it!  But, it got me thinking, what about your history dorks?  Don’t they deserve a little geeky, history-dork fun this summer?

So, I have come up with my list of Smart Summer Fun: 30 ideas for Your History Dorklets!

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  1. Are you going to a beach this summer?  Come prepared!  Build a trebuchet catapult to assault the sand castle!  And, learn a little about applied, medieval physics while you’re at it.
  2. Ok, this idea is lifted from Geek Mom, but make a point of hitting some of the local historical sites in your area (or beyond) and have the kids send themselves postcards from monuments and historical reenactments (etc.).
  3. Get historical with the Olympics this summer and be active!
  4. Instead of playing video games, have your kids create a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story/game.  There are a bunch ways to do this with video, text-based game creation, board games, role-playing games (both digital and card-based), etc.  I cover a ton of resources for this in my “Gaming the Past” post.
  5. Research the history of your home.  Who lived there before you?  What historical moments did your house witness?  What history is hiding in the walls’ memory that they can’t tell but you can discover?  The House History Man will show you how fascinating this investigation can be!
  6. Dig through your old photographs and put them on Historypin.com, see how the places where you and your families grew up have changed!
  7. Design board games (preferably with a history twist–because that’s what I do–but they don’t have to be, of course) the family can play for family game night.  Here are some practical tips.
  8. Get poster board, family photos, and other craft materials and design a family tree or timelines.  You could, for example, draw the outline of their bodies or have your kids lie down on pieces of poster board and measure their height with strip of paper measuring tape clued to the poster board and then have them fill in the years along the measuring tape, including different events and moments of growth–it will amaze you what the kids choose to select for their timeline!
  9. Write a story.  Or, you could have them write a historical story.
  10. Read historical fiction about a time period before you visit an historical site.  That will help them connect with what you are seeing and visiting.
  11. Get National Park Service Passports and get stamped!  It’s really fun… even when you’re my age.
  12. Look at old family photos together and if possible talk to older family members–even better: record these interviews.
  13. Buy a collection of small figurines–toy soldiers, colonial figures, medieval knights, etc.–and use junk from your house to create a village or city that the kids romp through.  (It’s much cheaper than Legos, but operates on a similar idea.)
  14. Build models: airplanes, cars, historic buildings (like the Parthenon or the Colosseum).
  15. Make costumes and teach the kids to sew!  Host a costume party around a particular era and include era-appropriate games and activities, food, and music!
  16. Attend a Renaissance Festival.
  17. Cook a historic feast!  Work on their cooking skills, too.
  18. Make a historical toy: the Jacob’s ladder.
  19. Dig up history at local public archaeology digs.  There are many opportunities around the country–most of them are free!  Google your local public archaeology and historic preservation service–both your state and county government may have a division devoted to this–or simply inquire at local historical sites.  In Maryland, try these sites–others may find inspiration for their area by perusing this, as well.
  20. Learn to play Nine Mens Morris, a colonial game, or the game of Viking Chess, Hnefatafl, (you can make your own board, too).  (If you play on the computer, Nine Mens Morris is against the computer, whereas Hnefatafl requires you to play with an opponent… or against yourself.)  Here are some other colonial games.
  21. Make a map of your day’s travels and indicate the treasures!
  22. Read old family letters and look at other interesting family documents, such as military orders, etc.
  23. Read newspapers that are 100 years old to the day!
  24. Write a daily/weekly newspaper about your family/neighborhood and store them in a chest, next summer see what happened a year ago.
  25. Invest in some nice journals that your kids like and encourage them to keep a journal.  It can be a whatever they want–nature journal, record of their day, record of their thoughts, a way to work through a challenging time, etc.–whatever they need it to be.  Alternatively, you could also have them keep a summer scrap book.  You’re teaching them to keep primary sources–one day they’ll be historical documents!
  26. Too hot to go outside?  Play history with these online history games.
  27. Explore the world with maps!  Or, explore the historical world with historical maps!  Or, explore World Wonders!
  28. Make scavenger hunts!  You can do one in your home or beyond: for your library, local museum, neighborhood, community, city, historical site, etc.  You can also do them online using programs like Google Maps or Google Earth.
  29. Explore what your local, community and state historical societies have to offer–many of their events may be pricey fundraisers, but many will also be free.
  30. Have them make illuminated manuscripts!  This how they were made in medieval years.

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