Exploring ancient African history and culture with kids can be fun. The beauty of this second largest continent is that it has so many topics to discuss and facts to discover.
We are our children’s first and most important teacher. Our kids learn about diverse cultures, history and the world around them through us.
Many little kids are fascinated by African culture, and why shouldn't they be? They're fun to learn about!
Research has revealed that children start noticing racial and gender differences as early as two years of age. At this point they can start to be exposed to different cultures and their histories.
Given how expansive Africa is, try to explore one country at a time. Remember, you do not want kids thinking that Africa is a country.
To help kids enjoy learning, we need to be creative! Here are 8 fun ways to explore African history and culture with kids.
1. Africa themed activities for kids
Kids learn best by doing. Explore fun, engaging and exciting Africa themed activities that you can do with kids. Here are a few suggestions:
- Crafts: Kids can create beautiful pieces of folk art such as recreating specific clothing styles, masks, and flags for various African countries. You can start with our blog post, 6 African Themed Crafts for Kids, for some ideas on what crafts you can make. Pinterest boards are also another great resource for creating multicultural art with your children. As you create these crafts, explain to them what each represents.
- African games: If you look back at your childhood, I can guarantee some of your best memories involve playing games. Therefore, if you can play games with your kids that are also educational, it's a perfect scenario. Try introducing your kids African-centric games like Haakya (a board game similar to backgammon) and Mancala African card games .
- Take them on an African safari: You don’t have to take them to an African country for a safari but a trip to the zoo will do. Show them all the animals that are commonly found in Africa.
2. Read quality African Literature
I think that children's books that focus on history and culture are one of the greatest resources. They educate kids in a simple and fun manner. I may be a bit biased because I am both a book lover and author, but I promise you, you can never go wrong with children's books. The best way to do it is to focus on one African country at a time. Check out our post on the Best African Children's Story Books On African History And Culture.
3. African songs, poems and folklore
Africa is rich in culture and its ancient history is captivating. You will find so many details about various African cultures captured in songs, poems and folklore. There’s nothing more fun for your children than learning to sing in another language!
4. Celebrate Africa
Festival of masks, Ivory Coast. Picture by Ujwal Hollica.
Learn about traditions and customs for African festivals, celebrations, holidays, and birthdays, and select some favourites to celebrate. With 54 countries in Africa, there are countless holidays to choose from. The trick is to start small. Pick a country, research the holidays and find out the background of the celebration.
5. Learn some new words
Here is a simple start on Yoruba, a language spoken in Western Africa.
Language is such an important part of any culture. Africa has thousands of languages that your children will enjoy learning. Choose a language to focus on for the year and start by learning simple conversational phrases such as “Hello,” “Thank you”, “How are you?” “What’s your name?”, etc. Then you can progress from there. We have a simple blog post that can help you learn different African languages, read it here.
6. Let the kids pick independent study topics about Africa
Let the kids feel in control every now and then by letting each child choose a couple of topics to learn about. They can choose a place and an animal to learn about, then research those topics and do a presentation about them. By feeling more in control, you pique their interest to learn.
7. Take a virtual tour of Africa on YouTube
You may not be able to take your kids to Africa at the moment, but you can bring Africa to them, virtually. Another interesting way to help your children learn about Africa is for them to see what it looks like. What life is like around the continent and just immersing them in the continent as much as possible. Let them watch videos on YouTube about countries and people in Africa. This is as close as it gets to real-life in Africa.
8. Try out Africa recipes
Grilling some plantain in Ghana. Picture by Victor Kwashie
Get your kids to eat foods from different cultures as you learn interesting facts about the people. You can find different recipes online and try making them with your kids. If you have restaurants in your area that serve African dishes, you can also visit them and dine together.
Taking the time to teach your kids about ancient African culture and history is a step in the right direction. Africa is much more than slavery and colonialism, and getting your kids to learn the real facts about this fascinating continent will benefit them immensely. All you have to do is make the lessons interesting!