As parents and educators, from time to time, we realize there are gaps of knowledge in our kids. For mine, it was the realization that she never learned the state capitals and presidents. I’m a big believer in deep learning so memorization has never been my focus, but like times tables, I’ll concede that these two trivia worthy lists are worth committing to memory.
Use your holiday break to take a crash course in U.S. History 101 with your child by using some of the resources below. And, as always, let us know if you have any recommendations for more great resources!
The U.S. Presidents & The Executive Branch
Check out these websites for detailed biographies and resources to help your child learn about the Executive Branch of government and the U.S. Presidents.
- PBS – A gold mine of resources for learning American history, PBS has learning tools for students ranging in age from Kindergarten through 12th grade. PBS 60 Second President Activities are a perfect introduction for students just learning about American presidents while older students can dive deeper with PBS President Biographies available for free streaming through the PBS website.
- Center for Civic Education – An excellent source for teachers, The Center for Civic Education provides lesson plans exploring the executive branch of the U.S. government at the Elementary Level, Middle School Level and High School Level.
- Brainpop Educators – Lesson plans for educators complement Brainpop videos exploring topics like the Branches of Government on Brainpop Educators. Various lesson plans can be adapted for grades K-8 and utilize the Brainpop Jr. President page.
- National Portrait Gallery – This comprehensive teacher’s resource provides over a dozen lesson plans and games to get students engaged in learning about the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government.
- Hail to the Chief Board Game – The board game Hail to the Chief can take the humdrum out of learning all about our nation’s presidents, the election process, U.S. history, and geography. The object is to be the first “candidate” to land on the Presidential Seal.
- The Great American Presidents Puzzle by Crocodile Creek – From George Washington to Barack Obama. This wonderful, 200-piece puzzle, with all new up.-to-date illustrations, is certain to delight both young and old. It is a wonderful, entertaining way for children (and adults) to learn while having fun. Filled with information and fascinating facts about both USA history and the presidents of the United States. Its both a wonderful individual and family activity.
Fandex Family Field Guides: Presidents (also available for States) – A classic, Fandex Family Field Guides are perfect for travel and provide a chronological field guide to all 44 of America’s chief executives.
Yo Millard Fillmore! by Will Cleveland and Mark Alvarez – This book provides a fast, easy way to learn all the Presidents of the United States. In no time at all, you will be able to remember the names of all 44 presidents – in chronological order. Crazy cartoons and comic-book style captions with mnemonic devices create a nonsense tale that will make it impossible for you to forget the presidents.
Our Country’s Presidents: All You Need to Know About the Presidents, From George Washington to Barack Obama by Ann Bausum – Our Country’s Presidents is packed with information about America’s leaders. Find out why George Washington gave up his life as a Virginia planter to lead a nation, and why John Tyler was nicknamed “His Accidency.” Walk with the Presidents through wars, depressions, civil rights movements, and the race for space.
The New Big Book of U.S. Presidents: Fascinating Facts about Each and Every President, Including an American History Timeline by Todd Davis and Marc Frey – Readers can easily relive the course of American history through a detailed timeline, more than 50 vivid photographs and illustrations, information about each president’s term in office, and the major political issues of each era.
Basher History: US Presidents: Oval Office All-Stars by Simon Basher and Dan Green – Basher’s US Presidents shows you the nation’s leaders as you’ve never seen them before. Every president, from George Washington to the winner of the 2012 election, has his own entry and speaks directly to the reader. In Basher’s humorous fashion, these lively and enlightening articles bring history to life.
Presidents (Eyewitness Books) by – An excellent introduction to the Presidents of the United States. Each President is given between four pages (for such Presidents as Washington and Lincoln) and one paragraph (for such Presidents as Tyler and Harding). – For more books about presidents, check out this list of 44 Books About Presidents for Kids.
States & Capitals
Go beyond flashcards and get your child interested in learning the State Capitals with these fun and interactive games.
- Penguin Hop at abcya.com – Students can test their knowledge of the state capitals against up to 3 other players. Penguin Hop is an educational multi-player game for kids to practice states and capital cities.
- Great States Board Game by International Playthings – Answer timed questions to show how well you know state capitals, locations and landmarks in this learn-as-you-play game of history and geography.
Jax Sequence States and Capitals Board Game – Test your knowledge of the states and their capitals in this fun version of the Sequence game. Each card has the name of a capital with it’s location shown on the state. Players match the state’s shape and color on the card to the same states shape and color on the board, then place your chip on that space. Five chips in a row wins!
- National Geographic United States Atlas – The award-winning National Geographic Kids United States Atlas features lively maps, and graphics; updated essays and statistics; eight thematic map spreads on topics such as immigration, natural hazards, the water crisis, and the “greening” of America; same-size physical and political maps for each region for easy comparison; vibrant photo essays on each region and state; more than 350 full-color illustrations; 80-plus pages of National Geographic maps; 50-plus info graphics; updated state fact boxes; geo-whiz facts; state flags, birds, and flowers; comprehensive place-name index with coordinates for easy reference; and glossary of geographic terms.
- GeoCards, 50 States & Capitals by GeoToys – GeoCards USA: 5 Card Games in One! This deck of cards makes Geography fun! 50 Jumbo Sized Cards (4.5″ X 6.0″) with states on one side and capitals on the other double as flashcards. Geocards also have population, nickname and land area information for each state as well as rules for five different games for 1-4 Players.
- The Scrambled States of America Game by Gamewright – Based upon the book The Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller. Players learn the names, capitals, nicknames, shapes and positions of the states through a myriad of visual teasers, language riddles and geography challenges. After playing, you’ll see that there’s more to the 50 States than meets the eye! If your child can’t get enough of The Scrambled States of America, be sure to check out The Scrambled States of America Talent Show a more recent paperback by Laurie Keller.
- Geo Safari Spin USA – Spin and play your way across the U.S.A!Spin USA is the fast-paced, fun, effective way to sharpen U.S. geography skills! Players press the Spin USA Spin Timer, and then everyone races simultaneously to find their particular state before times runs out. This is a fun family game where everyon learns state locations and capitals. Includes the 2-in-1 Spin Timer, 100 state and capital cards, 4 USA map game boards, and 28 pegs in 4 colors.
- Postcards from North America – Postcards from America is a unique game where the players learn geography by traveling to cities and other locations based on actual postcards. Inventor Bill Rolette used 64 postcards from his continental travels to create this game, which is fun for both kids and adults.
Shepphard Software U.S. Capitals – A website with over 38 fun map games to teach capitals, state locations, landscapes and other pertinent information about the 50 U.S. States.
- Basher History States & Capitals: United We Stand by Simon Basher and Dan Green – This unique and comprehensive guide to 50 states (plus DC and the six territories) presents each state in the hip Basher fashion. Who better than Basher to give each state a face, voice, and personality and to give kids a fun, unusual but really information-packed gazetteer of their country. From Alabama to Wyoming, and everywhere in between, each state boasts about why it is special, dishes fun facts not found elsewhere, and waxes poetics about its motto, state bird, flag, state flower, and more!
And for those students who prefer flashcards, Quizlet and Brainscape provide online flashcards and quizzes to a variety of subjects, including the 50 U.S. States and their capitals (also available for U.S. Presidents)
American Presidents for iPad $3.99 – American Presidents is a beautifully designed, well-written overview of the history of the United States seen through passages on every American President’s life in timeline form.
Britannica Kids: US Presidents $0.99 – U.S. Presidents takes young learners on a fun and educational meet-and-greet with the 44 U.S. presidents. Bring the Oval Office into your living room with detailed profiles for every president. Tap into a wealth of interesting presidential facts, and solidify your knowledge through quizzes and voiced over text.
GeoTouch FREE – Get the feel of how our world fits together with this app by Clever Dragons. Learn the shape and location of each of the US states (included for free, along with US landmarks).
Stack the States $1.99 – Stack the States makes learning about the 50 states fun! Watch the states actually come to life in this colorful and dynamic game!
Presidents vs. Aliens $$0.99- Presidents vs. Aliens is goofy and fun way to learn about the U.S. presidents, from the same maker as Stack the States.
Learn the States – USA Capital and Geography Fact Learning $1.99 – Take the ultimate road trip throughout the 50 United States while engaging in brilliant, animated activities to test your knowledge of state shapes and statistics.
Ansel & Clair: American Bowl – A Fingerprint Network App $1.99 – Join Ansel, the friendly intergalactic photographer from the exotic planet Virtoos, and Clair, a brilliant Virtoosian robot as you test your historical and cultural knowledge while playing a fun and unique bowling game!
U.S. Geography by Discovery Education $4.99 – U.S. Geography by Discovery Education is a fact-filled app that teaches and tests geography and culture facts for different regions of the United States. Kids read information and watch videos about each region and then complete activities and challenges.
Before you test your child’s knowledge, give it a try yourself with this Presidential Quiz.
Special thanks to Speyer Legacy School librarian, Cat Sheridan for her book recommendations. Do you know of some awesome resources for learning about American History? Tell us what resources you are using and what has worked for you and your child by posting below or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org