American Indian culture is an important part of U.S. history that should be celebrated, and preschoolers aren't too young to learn about Indians' cultural achievements. Provide hands-on activities that are optimal for short attention spans. Parents, be prepared for lots of questions when your little one gets home. You might have a budding historian on your hands.
1. Pass the Talking Stick
Passing the talking stick is a tradition that you can simulate with your kids because it teaches the importance of respect and taking turns. Native Americans were brilliant story tellers and often, the elder of the group spoke first. In many tribes, the talking stick was passed when it was time for someone else to speak. Until then, everyone else remained silent, listening intently. What preschooler do you know who will listen intently just because of a stick? Not many. Use this activity as a base for taking turns. Instead of a talking stick, find a safer symbol such as a stuffed animal. You don't want a preschooler to get any negative ideas while holding a stick that's easy to swat someone with. Holding the stuffed animal gives the child the opportunity to speak, until it's passed to the next speaker.
2. Make Indian Corn
Give your child a sweet treat with some yummy Indian corn. The ingredients are simple. You'll need chocolate icing, small section of graham cracker, one pack Reece's Pieces, glue and muffin pan liners. Demonstrate first or the little ones will have chocolate everywhere, and who feels like a big clean up afterward? Carefully use a plastic knife to spread chocolate on the graham cracker. Cover the chocolate with Reece's Pieces. Fold the muffin liner in half, with the scalloped edge facing the top. Place your graham cracker in the middle and fold the muffin liner over it. Put a small bit of glue on the liner to secure it. Let the Indian corn sit a while for the icing to harden, so keep it out of reach of those eager little fingers.
3. Ball and Triangle Game
The Penobscot children in New England used birch wood and clay to make the Ball and Triangle game. Small children will need assistance making it, but you can set them loose to play once it's complete. Cut out an 8-inch cardboard triangle. Cut a small hole in the middle, a little bigger than a quarter. Make a little hole in the cardboard's corner and attach an 18-inch long string to it. Now the kids can help. Let them shape balls of clay about the size of gumballs. You can also use Silly Putty or a rubber ball. Securely tie the string to the ball and let the clay harden. The object of the game is to throw the ball up and drop it into the triangle's hole. Ensure that the ball is secure so it doesn't fly off and end up in someone's eye, which wouldn't be so much fun.
4. Native American Symbols
Symbols were used as a written language to communicate among tribal members. Often, words were represented with painted symbols. Use a large sheet of white paper and let your preschooler decide a message or sentence that he wants to convey. Instead of writing words, he'll draw symbols on the paper using markers or paint. When he finishes, let him explain his message and how each symbol represents a word. He might require some help with that. Don't worry if some symbols don't make sense. You just want him to understand the importance of the activity. Conclude by telling him the activity is for fun and to normally use words, otherwise he might begin to draw his name on all his papers.
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