Apps Help Bring History to Life

Maybe Hollywood had something to do with it. We’ve seen Night at the Museum, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian and National Treasure several times prior to our travels to Washington, DC. The kids were excited about our city vacation, full of museums and sights to see.

We toured many of the “must-see” attractions in DC — National Mall, Washington Monument, U.S. Capitol, American History Museum, National History Museum, National Gallery of Art, White House, Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Memorial, Roosevelt Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. I was truly astonished at how much knowledge my kids took in just a few short days. It was a lot of walking in scorching heat, yet I’m surprised (and thankful) that they learned some history along the way.

As we decided to drive down, we went fully prepared for the 10+ hour drive — iPads and iPod touch fully charged and ready to go. I wasn’t expecting that on the drive home, the kids would be building their own versions of Presidential memorials, museums and hotels via an app called Minecraft – Pocket Edition. Now this was only the Lite version at the time (we now have the full $6.99 version), but wow, did I get a kick listening to them talk about what and how they were building their “worlds” while driving.

Minecraft lets you build anything you can imagine while in creative mode — think of it as portable Lego. In survival mode, zombies are added to the mix (they look more like Lego Frankenstein) and with limited resources, your job is to find natural resources, ie wood, stone, coal, etc. while keeping away from the zombies. What makes Minecraft truly a unique game is the crafting aspect (which my kids have only recently discovered). Simply put, take the natural resources such as wood from the trees and “craft” new tools that you can utilize (such as door from wood, torches from wood & coal). As intriguing as zombies are, my kids are perfectly content playing in creative mode (which gives you unlimited supplies and crafting is only required in survival mode). I will say that the zombies did creep out my eldest as they come out at night and hunt you down and without building adequate weapons and shelter, you’re doomed.

Another app that my kids have come to enjoy since our return is Presidents vs. Aliens. After visiting the White House, presidential memorials and the American History Museum, DS has been fascinated with learning about the presidents. Presidents vs Aliens further solidified what he learned and he can now identify all 44 U.S. presidents (think we need a Canadian version). Read my review of it here.

So, if you are ever in doubt that kids are too young to learn about history, think again. And thanks to technology, the lesson doesn’t have to end once the trip is over.

Do you have other apps that make learning history fun? If so, I would love to hear it!

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