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Early Civilizations: An Ancient History Unit Study for Kids!

This week we’re using our knowledge of archaeology to dig into early civilizations! Join us to learn about prehistoric people, nomadic tribes, and the first farmers in our ancient history.

Early Civilizations for kids - activities, books, and media resources for your ancient history studies. Appropriate for elementary ages.

Early Civilizations Unit Study

We began our ancient history adventures with an introduction to archaeology and what we can learn about the past through science. I can see the excitement in my son’s eyes as he learns about the world’s history and ancient people of the past.

Our ancient history spines are Story of the World Volume 1 and the Usborne World History Encyclopedia. These provide a good background for history, but are limited in what they share.

To dig a little deeper, I’ve put together some current resources to learn about the early civilizations!

Early Civilizations Activities

Make a “Cave Painting”

Take a look at some ancient cave art and talk about the materials that cave people may have used to make their paintings. Cave people loved to trace their hands and draw animals they saw in daily life.

  • Use a roll of butcher paper to cover a large portion of your wall
  • Use chalk to draw and crushed chalk to “paint” larger areas
  • Trace your hands; draw animals and your family!

Cave Art Activity

Gather Your Own Food

Visit a farm or local u-pick to pick your own fruit or vegetables. Discuss the similarities and differences between a small, modern farm and the first farms in ancient times.

Create Prehistoric Stone Art

Create your own stone carvings using plaster of paris. Find directions for this activity on Pink Stripey Socks.

Early Civilizations Books & Articles

These titles and media resources can be used alongside any unit study of the earliest civilizations and are appropriate for the elementary grades. Some material may be too mature or too young for your child. As always, use your best discretion.

Prehistoric People & Ancient Nomads

DK Eyewitness Books: Early Humans by DK Publishing 

DK takes us through the evolution of our early ancestors to the earliest civilizations around the world. Look closely at artifacts, early tools, art, and architecture of our ancient relatives.

Explore Articles Online

Nomads on Wikipedia
NY Times Article: Artifacts Show Sophistication of Ancient Nomads
Read about the nomadic lifestyle of the Mongol Tribes of today on Ancient Origins

See the oldest cave paintings found on Smithsonian Mag
Find Cave Painting on Wikipedia
See ten cave paintings from different regions with maps on Touropia

The Fertile Crescent
& Ancient Mesopotamia

Cultural Beginnings and the Rise of Civilization Life in the Fertile Crescent

Cultural Beginnings and the Rise of Civilization: Life in the Fertile Crescent by Baby Professor

Picture book written for the lower elementary level as an introduction to civilization. Look inside the book on Amazon.

Explore Articles Online

Fertile Crescent from Ancient History Encyclopedia Online
Fertile Crescent on Wikipedia
Fertile Crescent on Britannica

Find the Fertile Crescent on a Map

Highlighted on Google Maps
Free printable maps from

DK Eyewitness Books: Mesopotamia
 by Philip Steele and John Farndon

Look into the daily lives, beliefs, and history of Mesopotamia from ancient times through the present. Photographs show the art, writing, and artifacts from the first civilizations.

Read about Life in Mesopotamia on Ancient Mesopotamia from the University of Chicago.

Early Civilizations Online

Dawn of Civilization Playlist – AllHistories On YouTube

The Agricultural Revolution: Crash Course World History #1 – CrashCourse On YouTube

Indus Valley Civilization: Crash Course World History #2 On YouTube

Mesopotamia: Crash Course World History #3 On YouTube

Movies About Early Civilizations

Great Human Odyssey – PBS Nova

Rent it on Amazon, Stream on Netflix
From Amazon, “Numbering no more than a few thousand, tiny groups of intrepid humans began to move out of Africa-eventually dominating the planet. How did these early humans acquire the skills, technology, and talent to thrive in every environment on earth?”

The Croods

Stream it on Prime
A humorous and enjoyable movie depicting the life of a fictional ancient cavemen family. This one is just for fun. Use it as a hook to spark interest in ancient times or for a somewhat educational movie night.

If you like The Croods, also check out Dawn of the Croods a Netflix Original Series.

Online Resources to Explore

Ancient Civilizations for Kids

This site takes through ancient history from our pre-historic ancestors to different regions: Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, and China. Each section features maps, artifacts, architecture, and a video about the region.

Ancient Mesopotamia: Lesson Plans

Investigate a variety of lessons and activities about Ancient Mesopotamia from the University of Chicago. Free printable PDFs with lessons about daily life, recipes, math, science, government, art, and more.

Next up: Ancient Egypt!
Ancient egypt unit study

We will be continuing with Ancient World studies throughout the year. Bookmark this page to keep up with all the latest posts.

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