What thoughts come to mind as you think about social studies? I think about history and geography. But social studies also encompasses economics, government, culture, and living in society. Can you teach social studies in preschool? How do we prepare young children for learning about these “big” subjects? Just like in all other subjects, we preschool teachers are teaching basics that will prepare learners to know more about the world around them. Let’s think about how we can focus on social studies in preschool.
Incorporating Social Studies in the Preschool Classroom
We teach social studies when we learn about families.
The family is the basic unit of society. Preschoolers discover more about others and how to live with them in their families. Offer activities and learning experiences related to families and family life. Encourage children to talk about their families. Include different types of family props in the dramatic play center. Using home play experiences allow preschoolers to try out different roles and play through different circumstances. Resources like kitchen play sets, dress up clothes, dishes, dolls, and play tools encourage family play.
Incorporate family items in all your centers. Use photographs of your families to make a homemade book. Add family counters in math activities or other games. Use books and puzzles that show different types of families. Add people figures or play furniture to the blocks center for family play. Learning and playing out family concepts builds understanding for social studies.
We teach social studies when we learn about our communities.
Set up a play grocery store or workshop or bakery in your dramatic play center. Add community buildings and vehicles in blocks center. Walk around your neighborhood and take photographs. Visit a local restaurant. Invite parents and other people from the community into your classroom to read books or talk about their professions. Bring in photos and props for various occupations so children can expand their understanding of the people around them.
We teach social studies when we learn about other places.
Use maps and photos of other places to build broader knowledge of the world. Books also help preschoolers discover people who live in ways that are different from them. Read folktales and fairy tales from different cultures. Compare different versions of “The Three Little Pigs” or “Cinderella.” In addition to building literacy skills and vocabulary, you can build the basics for social studies. Use words from other languages; show writing from other languages that is different from English. If you have children in your class who have different cultural backgrounds, invite parents to come and cook or bring traditional foods. Learning about differences is an important concept for preschoolers.
We teach social studies when we build a classroom community.
Working together and getting along with different kinds of people is a key life skill. Your preschoolers will be encountering people of all types during their lives. Helping children learn how to cooperate, to work through differences and solve problems, and to begin to regulate themselves and their emotions are important social studies concepts and social skills. Living in a society requires doing these things.
Part of a community is following the laws and rules of that community. Help preschoolers understand classroom rules and follow them successfully. Kids can begin to understand rules as they play games. Offer simple games with few rules. Use games like Bingo or trail games that encourage taking turns and communication. Allow kids to adjust the rules (with all players’ agreement).
Building social skills and beginning knowledge of social studies is an important part of the preschool classroom. How do you help preschoolers learn these concepts? Tell us below or in the forum.