Parents' Place

Helping Your Child Learn Social Studies: Grade 1

This year your child is learning about communities and how people work together. He or she is also coming to see the ways in which people are responsible to other people. Your child will investigate life in rural communities, small towns, suburbs, and large cities, and learn more about the people who live and work in each of these areas. How to work with a map, some different methods of transportation, and how the post office works will also be explored.

Here are some everyday activities you can do with your child to help promote interest in social studies.

How people help each other

  • Make an “I Helped” chart with your child. On a sheet of paper, write the words “I Helped.” Then ask your child to tell you about times when he or she helped someone else. List these on the chart. Then, display the chart and add to it over time.
  • Have your child draw a picture of a friend from school. Ask how he or she and this friend may have helped each other recently.

How people work together to solve problems

Help your child plan a menu for a lunch or dinner, making a list of foods to serve. Together, make another list of non-food items you will also need for the meal. Once the meal is planned, have your child invite friends or members of the household to share the meal.

Exploring rural areas and towns

  • Play a word game with your child. One of you starts by saying “I am going to plant a garden with some blank,” and names a plant, such as zucchini or tomatoes. The next player repeats the sentence, the first item, and adds another item. “I am going to plant a garden with some zucchini and blank.” Keep taking turns adding plants as long as each player can repeat all the items.
  • With your child, sing the song “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” or read a book about a farm. Have your child share what he or she has learned about a farm—either the kinds of animals found on a farm, or the kinds of work people do on a farm.
  • Have your child draw a picture of a farm animal, and tell you about this animal.

Exploring cities and suburbs

  • Look over a state map with your child. Point out suburbs near a major city and use the legend to work out how many miles each one is from the city. (If you live in a suburb, use that one.) Help your child to see that these communities developed around the outside edge of a city.
  • Walk or drive around your neighborhood with your child, and point out buildings or places that are new or that have changed in some way. Talk about how the neighborhood once looked, and how it might look in the future.
  • Help your child find five items in your home that were made in a factory. Encourage him or her to understand that it took many people to make each item.
  • Work with your child to make a list of jobs held by people he or she knows. Talk about when each of these people work. Do they work during the day, the night, or at different times that change? Talk about how these jobs help other people. Ask your child to name one kind of job that you have not listed that helps others.

Working with a map

  • On a table, set a place with a plate, a glass, and the utensils your child usually uses to eat a meal. Ask him or her to draw a map of the place setting. Then have the child use the map to help you set places for other household members.
  • Have your child repeat the name of your community, your state, and our country, the United States. Look at a map of the United States and have your child count the number of states which border yours. Point out any geographical features which also create a border for your state.
  • Play a game with your child called “Going to Canada.” Using a map of the United States (there is a map in the back of the textbook), lay a ruler from your home to the closest border of Canada. Ask your child to count how many states you would have to cross to follow that route to Canada.

Some different means of transportation

  • Play a game in which you and your child name all the different ways to travel around your area—including walking. Count how many ways you each saw today. Which way or ways did each of you use?
  • Help your child find three items in your home that were made in the United States. Then find three items that were made in other countries. Identify which countries these items came from, and discuss how they might have been transported here. Use a map to help you.

How the postal system of the United States works

Visit your local post office with your child. Point out how letters are mailed. Ask your child to count all the workers he or she sees. Explain that there are many more workers who keep the mail going, and that you cannot see all of them. Try to point out the mail trucks, and talk about how they help transport mail over many miles.


Houghton Mifflin