World War II for Kids

World War II for Kids

Teaching Kids about World War II

The World War II era is such an interesting time to study, but many resources are geared toward older kids due to the intense subject matter. In our homeschool, I like to incorporate hands-on activities whenever possible, and I find World War II for Kids to be a complete resource for incorporating activities and background information into our history studies. Though younger kids might not need to be exposed to all aspects of the war, teaching them about this time period in a gentle way will introduce them to topics that they will revisit in high school.

The wide variety of information and activities makes World War II for Kids suitable for use with elementary, middle, and high school aged students, with some modification. The resources in the book include the following:

  • maps of the European and Pacific theaters
  • timeline of war-related events from 1933 to 1945
  • actual photographs of historical figures, events, and artifacts
  • detailed explanations of WWII lingo including V-mail, rations, ranks, reconnaissance, codes, Jewish star, Victory gardens, and propaganda
  • complete chapters on history ranging from Hitler’s rise to power to the surrender of the Japanese
  • personal memories from people who lived through the war
  • twenty-one activities related to the topics covered, such as: staging a radio adventure program, playing a latitude and longitude tracking game, using cereal to study the physics of dropping bombs, and practicing phrases in French, German, and Russian

World War II for Kids is so complete that it can be used as a primary textbook for studying this historical era. I use it as a companion to our other history texts and as a literature supplement when reading other books from this period, such as The Cay. The publisher recommends this book for ages nine and up, but some of the material might not be suitable for kids younger than middle school age. There are photographs of dead soldiers and descriptions of the horrors of concentration camps.

The most notorious and deadly of all the camps in the Nazi system was Auschwitz. Two million people died in the huge Auschwitz-Birkenau complex. Unlike Terezin and other concentration camps, Auschwitz was an extermination camp, also known as a death camp. Most prisoners in death camps were killed almost immediately upon arrival. They were told that they had to take a shower. Instead they were sent to the gas chambers… (p. 123)

This passage goes on to describe how the prisoners were killed and other atrocities that were carried out on their bodies. War is definitely horrible, and though it should not be sugar-coated, I use discretion when teaching my boys. My nine-year-old is not ready for some of this material, and honestly, I would rather not know some details. But, there is an abundance of information in World War II for Kids, so I can easily find other topics to cover with him.

My younger boys enjoy the activities on code-breaking, camouflaging their bicycles, making a care package for a soldier, and making an insignia. We are learning the differences between different weapons like mortars and howitzers. The personal accounts from real people, such as Eva’s recollection of the Russian invasion of Budapest, make these stories come alive for us and show my boys the human aspect of history. The author includes many first-hand accounts from letters and interviews, and even suggests that kids talk with and interview friends, neighbors, and family members about their experiences during World War II. We should “always remember that wars are fought by real people—as real as your sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents.” (p. vii)

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