Introducing Pre-Colombian Native American Indians to Elementary Kids

For my very young elementary students, we learn that there were a variety of Native American cultures before explorers from Europe arrived.It is simply not possible to cover all the thousands of cultural groups that lived in America before the arrival of European explorers. As a result, when I introduce my young kindergartner to Native American Indians, I must restrict our learning in some way. This is meant to be an overview, after all. My main focus, then is that there were many groups that lived in North America, and that these groups were different, large, and all across the continent. They lived in homes and farmed or hunted according to the land they lived on.  The Native American Indians that lived in America before Columbus arrived lived complex lives of their own.

Teaching about Native Americans

Lesson Objective: There were large communities of people in the Americas before Europeans arrived in 1492. (Copy sentence option: Many people lived in America before 1492.

As I mentioned, the basic overview for an early American history survey simply accepts and introduces the fact that there were many different groups in America. When we get to this lesson, I may follow my daughter’s lead. What is she most interested in learning about?


We learned that there were a variety of Native American cultures before Europeans arrived. For my very young elementary student, this was a gentle overview!After we read one of the suggested books below, we decided to make our own kid-sized tipi in our basement. We used empty wrapping paper tubes, but these proved far to small for successful tipi creation. Strawberry wanted to make a tipi all the same, so we tried our hand at an adapted tipi: in other words, it ended up not looking much like a tipi. However, just as in the book we read, Strawberry insisted we pick it up and move it to a new location after a time of playing. That was the point of the tipi: it was portable.

We also revisited the Native American homes ebook and matching set that I created years ago. It is a simple overview that introduces the concept as I hoped to introduce it. It has a focus on the homes that 8-10 groups used in their climates. Strawberry was just the right age to appreciate the activities this year!

Early Native American Homes cut-and-paste: where was each type of home built?
Get Early Native American Homes from my Shop or from TeachersPayTeachers. Get My Book of Native American Homes from my Shop or from TeachersPayTeachers. Or get the BUNDLE of both of them from my Shop or from TeachersPayTeachers.


Any lesson I offer for my children is going to have a strong book focus!

  • The Very First Americans by Cara Ashrose.
  • North American Indians by Douglas Gorsline.
  • Many Nations by Joseph Bruchac. As the author of this book, Bruchac, is from a Native American tribe himself, he has treated the variety of people that lived in America with utmost respect. This book is an alphabet book, providing a different fact from a different tribe for each letter of the alphabet. It is clear to the reader how very many nations, indeed, there are to learn about!
  • Corn is Maize by Aliki. Aliki’s book explains the central role of corn to the Native American people.
  • If You Lived with the …… Series. This series provides a detailed book for many of the larger Native American groups. The amount of detail is a bit much for a kindergartner, but first and second grade elementary students would probably begin to enjoy the facts within.
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’1556522134′ text=’More Than Moccasins’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’rebereid06-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’c49a65ab-64f4-11e7-ae3c-896d392c69f8′] (Activity Book) by Laurie Carlson. This books provides a lot of fun ideas for hands-on crafts related to the Native American traditions.

Parents or teachers my find this site helpful for background. The lesson plans have suggestions appropriate for older children, but you may get ideas for your own students!

National Museum of the American Indian lesson plans

Hands-On Activities to learn about Native American Cultures

Nothing could be better than hands-on experience for learning. Learning about Native American Indian culture can be an eye opening experience

Learn about Native American cultures with hands-on activities and crafts.

See the 10 Days of Early American History for Elementary to find the next lesson!

201707 early american history


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