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European Explorers Columbus, Vasco de Gama, and Vespucci for Kids

Kids will have fun learning about European Explorers Columbus, Vasco de Gama, and Vespucci with lots of hands on ideas, great resources, and more to make history come alive for elementary age kids. This is the 3rd week of our free Early Explorers Unit.

Learn about European Explorers Columbus, Vasco de Gama, and Vespucci with these fun, hands on history activities for kids in K-5th grade. #earlyexploreres #europeanexploreres #columbus #vascodegama #vespucci #historyforkids

More Homeschool History Units

European Explorers

This is a great unit to for the fall so you can learn about European Explorers including Christopher Columbus before Columbus day! Don’t miss the rest of our amazing early explorers for kids unit.

Captain Says History Game

We played ‘Captain says’.  You play by having the captain instruct the other sailors to walk/hop/run/skip/crawl to the following areas of a ship. If it is  warm enough outside,  do this on a driveway and drawn a ship in chalk. If you do it inside you can use masking tape to make a ship outline on the floor.

  • Bow (front)
  • Stern (back)
  • Keel (bottom spine)
  • Mainmast (middle mast)
  • Mizzen sail (back sail)
  • Crow’s nest (lookout at top of mainmast)
  • Rudder (in back of ship, used to steer)
  • Helm (steering wheel)
  • Fore sail (front sail)
  • Anchor
  • Mainsail (middle sail)
  • Keel (bottom spine)
  • Starboard side (right)
  • Aft of the boat (back toward the stern)
    Port side (left)
  • Amidship (middle)
  • Hull (main part of the ship)

Christopher Columbus Video for Kids

We watched the animated video by NEST on Christopher Columbus (This is an excellent series with both famous people and Old & New Bible Testament stories straight from the Bible) Your library may have some. I bought a lot of the VHS off of Ebay for super cheap (we can suffer through the old medium for a good price!) Goofy really enjoyed the story and remembers so much more because he heard it and saw it!


Retelling History through Acting

We acted out the story when Christopher Columbus asked the King & Queen of Spain to go, sailing, and landing in America.

What does your name Mean History Connection

Christopher’s name means christbearer – what does your name mean activity?

Drawing the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria

Use the Draw, Write, Now book #2 to draw Columbus’ three caravel ship – Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. I think this how to draw series is great! It helps teach kids some basics of drawing, they can practice writing, and it goes along great with Social Studies at the same time. Goofy was thrilled that drawing with Mommy was ‘school’ =-)
Note: 1+1+1=1 has a great FREE printable to go along with the Draw Write Now series.

Draw Write Now Christopher Columbus Drawing for Kids 


Ship Learning with FREE Printables

We learned more about ships – the method early explorers used to get to the new world. We used the free printable from Enchanted Learning for our labeling.
Learning about Early Explorer Ships for Homeschool Kids
We also practiced addition and colored by number Columbus’ ships. (I love how Goofy used our Unifix Cubes to do the math problems – I was so proud!)

Unifix cubes for early explorer math problems 


Making a boat Extension Activity

We made several kinds of ships: wood, metal, cloth, paper and tried sailing them to see which would float.

Hour Glass History Craft

The ship’s boy kept track of time with half-hour glass. We made our own similar device for keeping track of time. We used 2 funnels, card stock (for opening on funnels), tape (we used packing tape), and sand. After finishing it we timed it & turns out we have a minute glass. Goofy thought it was great fun to make & has been enjoying telling me when a minute is up =-)


Food on an Early Explorers boat

We talked about what they ate on the boat? Answer: dry biscuits, salted meat, cheese, chickpeas, honey, rice, almonds, onions, raisins. Because of the lack of fresh fruits & veggies the sailors ended up getting  scurvy. Side note: in 1795 sailors took daily ration of lemon so they nicknames Limey.  Goofy that it was cool that they had biscuits on board. To help him understand that the biscuits wouldn’t be fresh from the oven we made a biscuit and let it sit out for days. Now imagine what that would be like after 2 months!!

I intended to practice different basic knots, but we rain out of time.

Christopher Columbus Books for Homeschoolers

Here are our favorite books about Columbus. Check them out from your local library or click to find on Amazon.


Vasco de Gama & Vespucci

There weren’t lots of books or activities about the following explorers, but I wanted to at least touch on these important explorers!

I used The Picture History of Great Explorers by Gillian Clements. This is a wonderful book to own. It gives one page of information about each major explorer from Ancient Explorers and Vikings to Armstrong and Earle. Each page is easy to read and filled with great information. There are several illustrations per page. I love the ease of use and chronological order.

  • Vasco de Gama – established trade route for Portugal to Indies by sea going around Africa
  • Amerigo Vespucci – discovered that America was indeed a new, separate continent.


FREE Early Explorers Lapbook and Timeline

If you are following along and would like to download the FREE lapbook / timeline elements from today’s lesson:

  • Prince Henry
  • Christopher Columbus
  • Vasco de Gama
  • Vespucci

FREE Early Explorers Lapbook and Worksheets for Homeschool History

By downloading from my site you agree to the following:

  • This is for personal use only
  • This may NOT be sold, hosted, reproduced, or stored on any other site (including blog, Facebook, Dropbox, etc.)
  • All downloaded materials provided are copyright protected. Please see Terms of Use.
  • I offer free printables to bless my readers AND to provide for my family. Your frequent visits to my blog & support purchasing through affiliates links and ads keep the lights on so to speak. Thanks you!

>> Download Free Early Explorers Lapbook Part 3 <<

About the author

Beth Gorden

Beth Gorden is the creative multi-tasking creator of 123 Homeschool 4 Me. As a busy homeschooling mother of six, she strives to create hands-on learning activities and worksheets that kids will love to make learning FUN! Beth is also the creator of www.kindergartenworksheetsandgames.com where she shares Kindergarten spedicif worksheets,& educational ideas.

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