Parents' Place

Helping Your Child Learn Social Studies: Grade 2

This year your child will learn how people work together and depend on each other. He or she will also discover that people can make a difference—in their own lives and in the world. Your child will examine your family history and traditions, and come to understand that people from different cultures have different traditions. He or she will also begin to explore what it means to be a citizen in the United States.

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

How people work together and depend on each other

  • Help your child link the food you eat with the people who help supply it. Begin with the buyer and end with the producer. For example: one of you starts this way: “I bought an apple from the grocer.” The next player says, “The grocer got the apple from a truck driver.” The first player then says, “The truck driver got the apple from a warehouse.” The second player responds: “The warehouse got the apple from an orchard.” Use two or three food items your family regularly eats.
  • Choose a favorite vegetable. Talk with your child about how many different steps are involved in making it available—someone has to plant it, take care of it, harvest it, process it, transport it, sell it to you. Encourage your child to come up with as many of these steps on his or her own as possible.
  • With your child, identify some foods your family likes to eat that are not grown in your area. Talk about where they might come from, and then work with your child to figure out how they probably get to your grocery store.
  • Help your child come up with a list of ways he or she depends on you (for food and transportation, for example) and then of ways you depend on him or her (helping keep parts of the house clean and taking care of pets). Help your child understand how people depend on one another both inside and outside of families.

People who make a difference

  • Encourage your child to think of one or two ways in which he or she might like to help people someday. Have your child pick one of those ways and draw a picture showing how he or she will help others.
  • Talk with your child about how doctors and nurses help keep people well. What special clothing has your child seen his or her doctors and nurses wearing? Have your child explain the use of the special clothing.
  • Point out any news items in the newspaper or on television in which athletes, educators, or politicians work to help others in a time of need. Ask your child to think of ways he or she might be able to help someone.
  • Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, the phonograph, and the movie projector. Ask your child to look around your home and list all the things he or she uses that involve light, sound, and moving pictures. Discuss how those inventions help make people's lives better.

Family history and tradition is passed down through generations

  • Talk with your child about where his or her ancestors came from. Together, make up a story about an ancestor and write or tell it to each other.
  • Arrange to have your child talk with an older relative or family friend about when he or she was your child's age. Help your child prepare three questions, such as: “What was your favorite food?” “What did you do for fun?” and “What kinds of work did you have to do?”
  • Help your child make a list of family traditions he or she feels would be important to pass down to later generations. Talk about how each tradition is special. Decide on a place to keep the list so you and your child can look at it at some later time.
  • Help your child make a personal photograph album. Find pictures that show your child as a baby, or show toys that he or she played with, or events and trips that are special to him or her. Include photos of other family members and friends. Encourage your child to make the choices and to arrange the photos.

How different families' customs lead to a diverse society

  • Talk with your child about a tradition, activity, or food that comes from another country. Encourage him or her to understand that some families in the United States mix traditions from both another country and the United States, for example, by celebrating Thanksgiving with foods from another country.
  • Read a book or a story together about people in a different culture. Discuss the ways in which the people in the story are like you, and how they are different from you.

Being a citizen

  • Talk with your child about how people in the United States obey the same laws. Ask him or her to tell you about some rules at school that help everyone get along. Explain that you follow laws much the same way, and give an example, like traffic laws, which help traffic move safely and smoothly.
  • Play a guessing game with your child in which you think of a holiday and your child guesses which one. Give one hint at a time, for example: “This holiday is in July.” Keep giving hints until your child guesses, and then switch roles.
  • Read a story from the newspaper, or point out a story from the television or radio that shows some aspect of the President's job. Talk about it with your child.
  • Talk about the Statue of Liberty with your child. Explain where the statue is located (in a harbor entrance) and that it holds a torch. Talk about the meaning of the location of the statue and the fact that it holds a light. Ask your child what other things the statue might hold as a symbol of our country. (A flag, an important document, a picture of someone?)
  • Work with your child to make a list of all the places you have seen our country's flag. How many of these were in your local community?

Houghton Mifflin