Exploring the history of our place with very young children

Primary History article

By Karin Doull, published 7th November 2023

Karin Doull considers how we can develop historical thinking in the Early Years in this article about locality and place. Karin offers helpful suggestions for developing historical vocabulary and assessing understanding.

How can we seek to encourage Foundation Stage children to engage with historical thinking and processes? What appears to me to be central is to focus on the essentials of the discipline. History is primarily an enquiry-based subject where we seek to ask questions in order to begin to make some sense about the past. What we want children to do therefore is to ask questions about what they experience, what they hear, feel, see. We want to stimulate discussion about those experiences and questions. This allows us to participate in some shared thinking, extending and investigating the children’s ideas (Cooper 2005, O’Hara and O’Hara 2001). Here we should allow children to make deductions and offer answers, accepting and also discussing their responses. Children’s reasoning is often valid even if it is not always obvious at first sight. Our focus here should be on helping children to explore notions of the past as we try to intertwine historical thinking into our EYFS provision. We need to create activities that allow children to ask and answer historical questions, encouraging them to base the answers on the sources that they have investigated...

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