Naturally Educational » 5-6 (Kindergarten), 5-6 (Kindergartners), 6-8 (Early Elementary), 6-8 (Early Elementary), 9-11 (Elementary), 9-12 (Middle Grades), Featured, History and Culture » Books, Videos, and Websites About Vikings for Elementary Kids
It’s a Viking raid here on Naturally Educational!
My friend, Athena, is always exploring the most exciting topics with her three kids. Last year they delved into American pre-history and found themselves spending a bit of time on Vikings. Here are some of their favorite picture and chapter books about Vikings, primarily for elementary school-aged children. The Vikings were always a favorite with my classes when I taught high school history, too. I cannot wait to check out Athena’s picks with my kids!
When Candace asked if I could write a guest post, I thought I’d share a little about what we did for for our homeschool history last year.
I homeschool my three children who are 8, 5, and 3 years old and last year, we decided to focus on American History in general. I decided to start really early–with evolution! We went over a bit of how the first life on earth formed and progressed through Darwinism and then finally the early animals and first people who made their way to North America. We spent a few months focusing on different groups of Native Americans. Eventually we moved onto the Vikings and other early explorers and the first Europeans to have permanent settlements in America. We wound up the year just before the American revolution.
So in fact, we studied American history before it really became the United States of America! Even though we didn’t get as far (chronologically) as I had thought we might, my kids really had fun going deeply into different cultures and peoples.
I found that what worked best for my family was when I read aloud most of the books to all the kids at once. My oldest would follow up with short novels–usually historical fiction–on his own. We read a few short overarching “history books” that would provide an overview, but I found that my kids learned best from picture books–either biographies of certain people or fables from different cultures. We often acted out plays my kids would write based on their favorite stories. We also spent a lot of time doing activities and crafts from the different cultures.
One of our most fun sections was studying the Vikings, so I thought I’d go into that a little more.
Books About Vikings:
Who Were the Vikings? (Starting Point History): My kids love almost every Usborne book we have gotten (including history, technology, biology, art, etc) and this was no exception. It is another general history book on the Vikings and the exciting pictures and fun text made my kids definitely held my kids interest.
The Discovery of the Americas: From Prehistory Through the Age of Columbus (The American Story) by Betsy and Giulio Maestro: This is part of a series of American History books for children. I like to have something to provide an overview of the history and this series was good in that it was well written with a lot of colorful pictures and was able to keep my kids’ interest.
Leif the Lucky, by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire: This is a biography of Leif Eriksson by the husband and wife D’Aulaire team. They have written several biographies as well as books on different mythologies and mythical creatures. My kids love all their books. Written in the 40s, the books have some violence (as with the stories themselves) and require some self-editing as I read for questionable racial or other issues, but overall worth the extra work of editing-while-I-read! My kids love the many illustrations and the stories are exciting and fast moving.
Yo, Vikings!, by Judy Schachner:A fun book based on a true story about a little girl who wants a Viking ship for her birthday. A good book–and I’m always excited to find books where the main character is a girl and she isn’t weak or annoying!
D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths, by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire: Another great D’Aulaire book filled with exciting tales of Ancient Norse mythology. Some a bit gory and scary–but not horrible enough to scare my kids off from wanting to hear more! (We have this one and the kids love the adventures and illustrations! –Candace)
Leif’s Saga: A Viking Tale, by Jonathan Hunt: The story of a Viking girl asking her ship-builder father to tell her the story of Leif Eriksson. Lots of beautiful color illustrations. Another story with a strong young female character–she wants to go to Vinland with her father once he is done building his ship and the story ends with the father smiling at her, telling her “I never intended to leave without you.”
Hands-On America Vol. 1: Art Activities About Vikings, Explorers, Woodland Indians and Colonial Life, by Yvonne Y. Merrill: This is the first volume in a series of books that describes (with great color photos) various crafts and art projects centered on certain ancient cultures. I have several of the different volumes and many of the projects are
fun and easy to do. From this book, we made a Viking Long Boat, Viking Jewelry (complete with a Hammer of Thor Pendant), and Viking Helmets for the kids.
Interactive 3-D Maps: American History: Easy-to-Assemble 3-D Maps That Students Make and Manipulate to Learn Key Facts and Concepts-in a Kinesthetic Way!, by Donald M. Silver and Patricia J. Wynne–we loved this book–they have lots of maps (of major American history events) for the kids to copy and cut out with interactive things for the kids to do with it–like making little boats that sail from Iceland to Vinland.
Viking Ships At Sunrise (Magic Tree House, No. 15): Magic Treehouse #15 Viking Ships at Sunrise, by Mary Pope Osborne–My oldest was excited to read this on his own. Not the best literature in the world, but easy and fun to read and a good reinforcement of the other books.
Story of the Vikings Coloring Book (Dover History Coloring Book), by A. G. Smith: A coloring book with fairly violent pictures, but my kids liked looking through it. Not my favorite of the books.
Norse Gods and Goddesses (Dover Coloring Book), by Jeff A Menges: A coloring book that reinforced some of the Norse gods that we had studied. My kids liked looking through it, but I didn’t love the pictures or the writing.
We listened to Ride of the Valkyries while we were reading the Norse Myths. In terms of videos, I usually see what I can find at our library or on Netflix and also check that they aren’t too violent or “fast”–some documentaries I find jump around so much, they are hard to really understand what is going on and are more for entertainment than
Ancient Mysteries: Vikings in North America: Interesting documentary describing the exploration of the Vikings from Scandinavia to Iceland, Greenland, and perhaps North America.
In Search of History – Viking Explorers (History Channel): Another interesting documentary discussing the veracity of whether the Vikings actually discovered North America. Including an interview with Helge Ingstad–the archeologist who discovered (what is arguably) a Viking settlement in North America.
Online Interactive Activities:
There were a lot of online interactive computer activities regarding the Vikings. Two of my kids’ favorites were:
Explore a Viking Village (PBS)–video clips of a model of a Viking village letting you explore what it would have looked like.
Viking Quest–A slightly violent game (violent in that violent acts, such as battles, are described, not that the child does anything actively violent in the game) that my two older children loved playing. You decide which village to start from and various other opening decisions and then you watch the story unfold.
Selected activities that the kids liked doing:
- Making an interactive map of the Vikings exploration–from the map book mentioned above
- Making Viking paper dolls
- Making a paper Viking Long ship
- Making Viking Helmets out of cardboard and aluminum foil
- Making Viking Jewelry with clay beads and foil covered pendants
We took a family trip to Iceland, which I would argue is one of the best places to takes kids on a family vacation–with the numerous heated outdoor swimming pools, amazing geysers and waterfalls, easy hiking, and northern lights–not to mention the history! But that may be the topic for another post