George Washington, the father of our country, is a man many believe to be the greatest president America has ever had.
President's Day, Washington's birthday (January 22), the days leading up to Independence Day, and Constitution Week are all wonderful opportunities to teach our children about Washington. Actually, any time is a great time to study the life of this great hero!
Understanding the character of President Washington and how he grew into the challenges he faced can help us, and our children, rise to the difficult challenges of our day.
George Washington can be our hero and friend as we study his life and seek to follow his example.
Books about George Washington
- The Real George Washington by Parry, Allison, and Skousen
- George Washington's Sacred Fire by Peter A. Lillback
- Founding Fathers Uncommon Heroes by Steven W. Allen
- 1776 by David McCullough
- Being George Washington by Glenn Beck
Free Resources, Activities, and Ideas
1) Learn about Washington.
- Take a virtual tour of his life.
- Read a short biography for children.
- Invite family members to tell a story or give a report about what made Washington great.
Watch historical videos about President Washington's life. (These last about 12 minutes each.)
George Washington - Part 1: The Early Years
George Washington - Part 2: The Military Commander
George Washington - Part 3: Guiding the New Nation
Listen to David McCullough telling about Washington and the early patriots.
Watch as Arnold Friberg shows how he painted the masterpiece "The Prayer at Valley Forge and tells what he learned about General Washington.
Watch "A More Perfect Union" to learn about Washington's pivotal role in crafting the United States Constitution, the inspired document that has laid the foundation for our liberty, peace, and prosperity for over 200 years.
2) As a young man, George Washington worked as a surveyor and map maker. This experience helped him when he was a general fighting in unfamiliar territory. If you have young children, you might want to teach them some simple map skills. Or you could talk about the importance of learning geography and sing "Fifty Nifty United States."
You could also discuss how the talents and skills we learn as young people can help prepare us for our life's work. The Mapmaker of Mount Vernon explains how important Washington's experiences as a surveyor were to his success.
3) Washington's work required that he be an excellent horseman. If you have access to horses, it might be fun to go horseback riding and talk about the importance of the animals in our life.
4) You could tell the story about how General Washington and his men crossed the Delaware River, and take your family on a boat ride.
Or you could watch this video about what it was like to cross the icy Delaware river at night in a snow storm when many soldiers lacked coats, and even shoes. Discuss the great sacrifices George Washington and his men made. Talk about the sacrifices we can make today.
5) Washington was a competent marksman and a courageous leader. You could have a friendly target shooting activity with whatever toys you might have. Over the years we've used toy guns, BB guns, squirt guns, slingshots, bows and arrows, darts, horseshoes, balls of all shapes and sizes, etc. (Be sure to talk about any safety rules that apply.)
You could tell the story of when George Washington was colonel of the Virginia Militia and fought in the French and Indian War. After one battle was over, it was discovered he had four bullet holes in his jacket. He later gratefully acknowledged: "By the all powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation." You could talk about times when you felt God has blessed, protected, or prepared you.
6) George Washington was a gentleman farmer. He loved his home life at Mount Vernon and he enjoyed cultivating the land. You could take a virtual tour of Mount Vernon. Or you could plant an indoor herb garden or prepare a small outdoor garden.
7) George Washington experienced sorrow and adversity in his early years that prepared him for later challenges. For example, when Washington was 19, he went with his brother Lawrence to the island of Barbados to help Lawrence recover from a serious case of tuberculosis. While there, George became very ill with smallpox. It must have been a trial at the time, and left George with unsightly scars on his face. But later, when he was general of the colonial army, George and his men were exposed to smallpox. Many became very sick and were unable to perform their duties. Due to his prior exposure, George was immune and able to carry out his heavy responsibilities.
Challenges helped to strengthen Washington's faith, develop his virtuous character, and increase his capacity to endure the indescribable hardships he and his men suffered during the Revolutionary War. Telling stories about George Washington's trials could be an opportunity to discuss any difficult experiences your family may have had, and to talk about how adversity can plant the seeds of later opportunities and blessings.
8) Explain to your children that George Washington was not always a great leader. He was once a boy, not too different from other boys. But he prepared himself, did his best when he was faced with new challenges and opportunities, and relied on God to help him. Remind your children that they can prepare themselves, do their best, and rely on God too.
Hope you enjoy celebrating the life of this great hero! His example can be an inspiration for us and our children as we seek to preserve and pass on the great gift of liberty we have received.