So it's worth taking a little time to talk in general terms about the past and how we learn about it. This unit can be fairly brief; we spent perhaps a week on it.
One note: I've included Amazon links to make it easy for you to learn more about the books I'm recommending, but given the mountain of books you'll be reading if you follow this curriculum all the way through, you'll definitely want to search your local library system first.
"Introduction: How Do We Know What Happened?" from Susan Wise Bauer, The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 1: Ancient Times
Story of the World is a series of four introductory world history books that are very popular among homeschoolers. The author is Christian, and her worldview seeps through at points, but overall it is well-regarded among secular homeschoolers. The writing is clear and generally engaging, but it's intended as a grade-school curriculum, and covers too much material too quickly for 4-6 year olds to absorb: If you try to sit down and read it straight through to your younger child, I'm guessing you'll have at best a very fidgety audience. At worst, you'll make the whole study of history seem dry from the get-go. So I recommend using it selectively; I'll list the chapters we found most useful, which include this introductory chapter, which succinctly introduces the concepts of history and archeology.Kate Duke, Archaeologists Dig for Clues
A group of children accompany their archaeologist friend on a dig at the site of a prehistoric village. Well-written overview of how archaeologists work, and how they use information from the tiniest artifacts to piece together theories about long-ago worlds. From the "Let's-Read-and-Find-Out-About Science" series.Aliki, Fossils Tell of Long Ago
Solid, informative introduction to fossils by the great children's book writer and illustrator Aliki. While the writing in this book may not be as fluid or elegant as in some of her other books, she does a good job of conveying the information to a young audience.Play
If just being read these books doesn't send your kid out to dig in the nearest available patch of dirt, a gentle suggestion should be all that's required. If the ground is frozen, or you'd just like to have an indoor digging activity, you can make your own cornstarch tar pit. You don't need a recipe: Mix cornstarch with water and black washable tempera paint until the mixture seems appropriately is roughly what you might imagine would fill a tar pit. Sink small objects in the glop -- seashells, bottle caps, little plastic dinosaurs, whatever -- and provide a spoon or other tool with which to excavate. Yes, it will be gooey and messy, and also very fun.
Have other books or activities to recommend? Tips based on your own experience? Please share...