Social Studies with Preschoolers

social studies for preschoolers

Social Studies with Preschoolers

The smell of apple pie baking, walks in the woods, a song on the radio, a Christmas ornament, holiday traditions… these are all things that trigger family memories. But, did you ever consider that social studies with preschoolers is a great lesson? Passing on those memories helps your child learn their history. Where they came from, what their heritage is, what life was like for their ancestors; children have many questions and social studies is a great place to answer them.


A preschooler quickly learns who is in their home. They know its Mommy, Daddy, Sissy, and Bubby. But they don’t really know how the family members outside the home relate to the family inside the home. Making those connections builds confidence in the child, provides reassurance, and instills a sense of belonging. The more information we provide, the better they understand.

Old Ways of Learning Social Studies

It used to be that when you wanted to show your child a picture of a family member, you would pull out a family album and spend hours looking at all the memories. Now, however, in this digital world, we must search through pictures on our phones and computers. Given that most of us don’t label and organize our digital photos, finding that one picture we want is extremely difficult. And, spending time browsing through thousands of pictures on our phone is not nearly as satisfying as holding a book of memories in our hands.

New Ways of Learning Social Studies

Capture those memories, share those stories about your family. A couple times a year, print out some of those precious photos and place them in an album that you can sit down with and share memories with your child. Children love to look at pictures. They always ask, “who’s that”. There are many other things you can do with your photos as well.

Family Tree

What says family more than a visual of whose who in the family tree? Putting a Christmas spin on it, below is an image you can copy and paste into Word and create your child’s family tree. Make it a fun family project! You can either print and decorate the tree or if you are skilled in photo editing, you can crop the pictures to fit the ornaments. Once you are finished, you can sit with your child and discuss the relationships in the family, heritage, culture, and so many memories. By doing this activity with your child you are teaching Kentucky Early Learning Standards for social studies such as:

Social Studies Standard 1: Demonstrates basic understanding of the world in which he/she lives

Benchmark 1.1: Differentiates between events that happen in the past, present, and future.

Developmental Continuum:

  1. Recognizes the beginning and end of an event.
  2. Recalls information about the immediate past.
  3. Develops awareness that events occurred before the child’s birth.
  4. Explores changes over time in environment by comparing pictures and hearing stories about the way something or someone looked in the past compared to now.
  5. Describes or represents a limited series of events in the correct sequence.
  6. Experiments with general terms related to the elements of time.
  7. Makes predictions about what may occur.

Benchmark 1.2: Uses environmental clues and tools to understand surroundings.

Developmental Continuum:

  1. Distinguishes through demonstration and/or description characteristics of the physical environment.
  2. Distinguishes different environments by the people or signs that are a part of that environment.
  3. Recognizes and uses a variety of objects and materials that represent the environment.
  4. Shows interest in investigating geography through the use of maps, globes, charts, compasses, and etc.

Benchmark 1.5: Demonstrates understanding of the roles and relationships within families

Developmental Continuum:

  1. Recognizes the roles within his/her home.
  2. Knows place in family structure.
  3. Uses familiar relationships to make sense of the world.

Benchmark 1.6: Knows that diversity exists in the world

Developmental Continuum:

  1. Describes self and/or compares own descriptions with others’ descriptions.
  2. Identifies and recognizes gender.
  3. Recognizes that people differ in language, dress, food, etc.
  4. Recognizes and identifies differences in personal characteristics and family makeup.
  5. Recognizes that different people have different roles and jobs in the community.
  6. Recognizes and accepts similarities and differences.


The more interactive with your child in this project, the more they will learn. Talk to them about the pictures. Who is in the picture? What are they doing? Where are they? Was it cold or hot? What clues in the background answer these questions? Ask the child to point out differences and similarities between the family member and them. Ask them lots of questions that inspire thinking and researching. Show them a map of where great-grandpa lived when he was a child. You can extend this lesson into so many areas. And, let’s not forget how much fun it is to spend quality family!

In the Classroom

This lesson can also be taught in the classroom. Let me offer some tips because it can be overwhelming if you are doing this activity with a lot of children.

  1. Get organized. That is a must.
  2. Request pictures from parents (by email preferably) with identification as to who is in the picture. Make sure the person is identified by name and role in the family. You will need that information when you start formatting the layout. It is imperative you get the paternal and maternal sides correct. If the parent sends in hard copy pictures, make sure it is ok to cut them. If not, you will need to make a copy.
  3. Keep the pictures organized by student.
  4. Make contingencies for children who have step parents, grandparents or an absent parent. What I did for maternal step-grandparents was to put both faces in one ornament. That way, you aren’t leaving anyone out. If there happens to be a blank ornament, no problem… just decorate it.
  5. Have fun with it! Discuss with the child who is in the pictures, what their role is in the family, and what they know about that family member. Ask them questions such as what do you call them? What similarities or differences do you see between them and you? Who does Mom look like? Who does Dad look like?
  6. The child will definitely need help putting the pictures in the proper places. I suggest doing this with a small group and making a master list for each child before you hand out the pictures. You could number the pictures to match your master list.
  7. Let the child glue them on or if you have mastered photo editing in Word, print each child’s sheet with the pictures already on it and let them color the tree.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Benjamin Franklin

Author: Belinda Davis ©2018

Christmas Family Tree