Parents' Place

Helping Your Child Learn Social Studies: Grade 3

This year your child will be introduced to some of the United States' natural landscapes and resources. He or she will begin to understand how people use these resources and work to protect them. Your child will also learn about various Native American groups and how they used the land. During this year your child will also begin exploring the history of our nation, especially how European settlers used the land to build farms, towns, and cities.

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

Using our land

  • With your child, look at a physical map of the United States. First, have your child point out all the mountains and the deserts. Then ask him or her to point to the mountain range and desert which are closest to where you live.
  • Point out any large or major bodies of water near your community—rivers, lakes, or an ocean—and talk with your child about its effect on your community. Has your area ever been flooded? Does the body of water affect temperatures at different times of the year?
  • Have your child draw a picture of a tree, and then work with you to list some uses for a tree. Encourage him or her to include products people make out of wood as well as ways people use trees in their yards. Also include how animals such as insects, birds, and mammals use trees.
  • Look over the signs in the produce section which tell where each item is from. Work with your child to make a list of all the different places which supply some of the food you eat.
  • Talk a walk with your child around your neighborhood or a park. Ask him or her to identify the trees you see as either evergreens or trees that lose their leaves in the winter. Are there any places that have both?

Taking care of our land

  • Discuss with your child what happens to a plant when it gets more or less water than it needs, or when the weather becomes too hot or too cold. Does he or she know of any plants in your region that make seasonal adjustments to different weather? What are those adjustments? Encourage your child to help you care for plants around your home, or to raise his or her own plants.
  • Work with your child to identify ways to sort your household garbage for recycling. For example, you could have separate containers for paper, plastic bottles, glass, and tin or aluminum.

Native Americans and the land

  • Help your child look up information on any Native Americans that lived or still live in your area. Have your child compare the way this group may have lived, before Europeans settled, with the way we live today.
  • Using paper towel rolls, scrap paper, and marking pens, work with your child to make a family totem pole. A totem pole tells about important events in a family's life, so design symbols to represent key events in the history of your household. Have your child present the pole to other family members, and explain the meaning of each symbol.
  • Have your child make a list of items in your home that are made from cows, including both leather and beef products. Then have him or her make a second list of the ways the Plains Indians used the buffalo in the past. Discuss the similarities and differences of the two lists.
  • At the library, find picture books showing the jewelry, rugs, and other crafts made by the Navajo and other Native Americans from the southwestern United States. Have your child tell you what natural resources the Navajo used to make these different items.
  • Look at a map of your community or state. Help your child find names of cities, lakes, rivers, streets, and other features that have Native American names.

Early European settlers

  • Share with your child any information you know about the early history of your state or your community. Work with him or her to gather more information by visiting a local museum, contacting a local historical society, or talking with a librarian.
  • Pretend that you and your child are settlers traveling in a wagon train going west. Take turns talking about the experience as though you are there. One of you might say, “The wagon's too heavy for the animals to pull. What should we take out?” The other might answer, “Let's see. What items do we need to have to set up a new life in the West? We'll need the tools, for sure. What else?”
  • With your child, watch a television program or movie that shows a realistic version of early pioneer life. Talk with your child about the daily activities of the pioneers. What kinds of things did they have to do every day to survive?

Our holidays and symbols

  • New England settlers sometimes declared special “Thanksgiving Days” when they felt they had something special to give thanks for. Tell your child this, and work with him or her to make a list of three things, events, or moments which were special for your family and for which you would declare a day of thanks.
  • Read a story with your child about an American legend, such as Johnny Appleseed, John Henry, or Paul Bunyan.

Houghton Mifflin