With childhood obesity on the rise, it seems we should be focusing on teaching our children physical fitness and nutrition tips. Yet, why is teaching history so important? How much are children getting out of it, especially if they’re only in grade school?
First of all, it’s essential to the child’s emotional and social development. Children are, by nature, egocentric, and many of their stories involve something they did or said. “I went to the movies”, “I played on the swings”, and “I got sick” are many of the things parents and teachers hear from young children throughout the day. As simple as the strung together words are, it’s important not to forget that the child is telling a story about a past event. It may be recent but it is still history!
As children grow older, they start forming opinions. For example, “The movie was funny”, “It was hot outside,” and “When I was sick, I felt sad.” The events they talk about become more descriptive and can help children deal positively with their feelings. Instead of throwing a tantrum or crying, they can explain how they felt and how they dealt with it.
As children enter grade school, they start to come out of the “selfish” stage and begin to care more about other people. They become more sympathetic and once they develop, empathetic. They begin to realize that the world does not revolve around them. Now, they notice that “Grandma and Grandpa go to the store every Sunday” or “Kathy felt sad yesterday”. They start forming opinions about their classmates and teachers and they can use their new knowledge to attempt to console a troubled friend or sibling.
Learning about history at a young age can help the children with their psychological development. They can use what they’re naturally learning to aid with something they’re being taught at school. For example, if the child is learning about Abraham Lincoln at school, they might be taught that he freed the slaves. They can form opinions about him, such as “He was a good person” or “Slavery was bad”. Also, they can sympathize with him, such as stating, “Abraham Lincoln had an important job” or “It must have been hard to do what he did.” School-children can become more emotionally developed by talking openly about their opinions on a historical figure and slowly moving away from the egocentric state.
As well as the child’s development being helped, it’s important to know history for its own sake. The well-known saying about those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it might come into play here, when the child is much older. The more prominent reason for grade-schoolers to learn about history is that children a lot younger are hearing a lot more about the world nowadays than they used to. There’s world news happening almost every day and it’s important to learn about how it came to be this way. The more knowledgeable those children are about the world around them, the more confident they will become in a place that can get quite scary for even grown-ups. The sooner children learn about history, the sooner they can feel that they’re actively involved in their community, and before you know it, this generation of kids will have become the leaders of whichever nation they’re a part of. Why not give them a head start now?