For some kids, history can provide for hours of entertainment as they sail the high seas with the notorious pirate Captain Kidd, follow General Sherman on his fiery march through the south during the Civil War, or build the earthly tomb of a pharaoh alongside the slaves in Egypt. In short, history can paint a picture for your children that are as rich and colorful as any they might find in a fiction novel. But for most kids, history is just another boring subject that they have to slog through, full of names and dates that they can never hope to memorize in time for the quiz. The blame for this can only partially be assigned to teachers (although a great teacher can animate any subject to help engage their students in the process of learning). In truth, most kids simply don’t give a whit about people who lived in the past or the lessons they can teach us. So if you’re struggling to help your child gain appreciation for this topic, here are just a few ways to make it a little more fun and less stressful.

Your first tactic should be to take an interest in the subject yourself. If you pay your kids lip service, they’re going to know you’re faking it. So find out what era and area they’re studying and then look for people or events that you might find interesting like the Battle of Bull Run. Follow up by going to the library to get some in-depth literature that grabs your fancy. Suddenly, you’ll have a lot to say about their topic of study, and you can use your new-found information to help your kids broaden their view and inject some humanity and excitement into what they’re learning. After all, if they can’t relate, it will never grab their interest. It may not be your job to ensure that your kids get a good education, but you certainly can help the process along, and your children will benefit greatly for it.

Another option is to find movies that cover the time period your kid is studying. Do you have any idea how many films have been made on historic topics? Wars, in particular, are popular fare for the silver screen, with many epics about the Civil War, World War II, and Vietnam to choose from (although some may be too intense for your child, depending on age). But of course there are many others. Is your child learning about Gandhi and passive resistance? Of how about the plague, the origins of slavery, or the discovery of America? For just about any era or event in history, you can find a related film to spice up the subject matter. Just be sure to inform your kids that they should take it with a grain of salt, since the tales have certainly been dramatized.

Finally, you can go online to get some good ideas. You’ll find a surprising number of websites that offer games for kids on all school subjects, history included (and they’re often broken down by age, grade, or subject). This may help them immensely when it comes to their interest level where history is concerned. At the very least, you are likely to find some helpful hints concerning how to get your kids engaged with the subject. And by utilizing a format that they already enjoy, you’re sure to see a lot less grumbling when it comes time to pull out the homework and get cracking with history.

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